Tuesday, July 24, 2007

UK non statutory guidelines issued....

Non statutory (non legally binding) guidelines were issued yesterday by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, BECTA, regarding biometrics in schools, nicely coinciding with the House of Commons Adjournment debate on the subject.

'Guidence on the use of Biometric systems in schools' from BECTA and 'The use of biometrics in schools' came from the Information Commissioner's office, ICO, yesterday.

Balanced points of view are required to make informed judgements.

From the BECTA advice: 6 ...Schools should also reassure parents and pupils that they will not pass the data on to any third parties.

But are parents and pupils aware that the UK Police can access school biometric databases without parental permission if a crime can be solved? See Q50 and Q51 and subsequent answers from David Smith, the Deputy Information Commissioner, at the House of Common Home Affairs Committee "A SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY?" (May 2007).

Police "fingerprint" databases are not just ink fingerprints on sheets of paper with people peering at them with magnifying glasses when a crime needs to be solved - Police now use algorithmic fingerprint databases (Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems - AFIS) as detailed in the above mentioned ICO document third paragraph, just like the ones used in schools. These algorithms, via M1, can be interchangeable between differing systems.

Quote from the front page of the ICO advice: "Fingerprints are not essential to the applications but unlike swipe cards they cannot be lost"

This from a primary school using thumb scans (top right, second column): "The only issues we’ve had have been caused by us changing our hardware and a burglary when our main computer was stolen. [The biometric provider] helped us to resolve them all," (Perhaps biometric data was 'lost' here?)

Non legal advice - nothing resolved.

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