Friday, September 28, 2007

Police able to access primary school fingerprint system

The Highland News reports that Drakies Primary School in Inverness, Scotland, has spent £1000 on fingerprint scanners for their school library.

The below comment is, as far as I know, the first mention in the media of police having accessing school fingerprint databases. Police can use children's biometric databases in England and Wales without informing parents. It does state here that the police have to get permission from the school and parents, Scottish law is different to English and Welsh law so this may well be the case in Scotland - but not in England and Wales (see questions 50 and 51).

... a spokeswoman for the National Policing Improvement Agency said: "If the police have reason to suspect a child has committed a crime then as part of their investigation with permission of the school and the parent, the police can request access to the data if they have reason to believe it will help them with their investigation."

There is no relevance to the argument that fingerprints aren't stored - a biometric identifier is stored which carries the exact same implications as if a fingerprint was stored.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Leeds pupils bullied to give up their prints

A parent from Leeds forwarded both myself and Leave Them Kids Alone details of how their 11 year old son's new school dealt with her concerns over a biometric lunch system, installed over the summer break.

The vendors of the lunch system treated the children without respect, the schools evaded questions, she got told by the bio-company "It is the law, it was passed in parliament in June this year. If you don't believe me, I can prove it" (what?!) and some courageous pupils refused on human rights grounds - good for them!

The email in full is on the LTKA [link temporarily removed] site, but here are some parts of the email that, quite frankly, makes my blood boil in the way the children were treated - but yet an admirable response in their stanse:

(parent) ...I had a telephone conversation with a very bright young girl who also attends this school. She refused to have her fingerprints taken, as did her friend. (Their human rights decision - she said) They have also heard of a few others who have refused too. They didn't agree with the way that the system had been sneaked into school and with no parental consent form. They were very scared, yet refused to cooperate. They were then threatened with the isolation unit, no school trips and wouldn't be allowed to enter into the school without the prints.

But.... my point is, they still refused! The girl said that many of her friends were very scared, they didn't like it and didn't want to have it done, yet they were still bullied into it (........ including her younger brother)

She said that they rounded up the kids like sheep for the slaughter, doing all the youngest first. The teenagers who are in their final year of school are going to be fingerprinted tomorrow. (14/09/2007) She also mentioned that apart from the science teachers, all the other teachers were completely in the dark about what was going on.

Courageous kids eh? bless em :-)

And this cashless system is supposed to 'prevent 'bullying eh?... the schools implementation of this scheme, in itself, raises some very serious questions!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Schools right to fingerprint without consent?

Chris Woodhead, who was the Chief Inspector of Schools in England from 1994 until 2000, answers this parent query on the Times Online website.
My 15-year-old son’s school recently informed parents that it would be introducing technology which uses pupils’ fingerprints to pay for school dinners. The school say they want to discourage children from bringing cash into school. How is that schools can keep this sort of personal information that could lead to identity theft? Where do parents stand in demanding their child’s fingerprints be removed from the system? Fiona Byrne, Leicestershire

The school has no right to fingerprint your son without your consent. You can therefore demand that his fingerprints are removed from its records.

I worry that our children will come to assume that those in authority have a right to demand any information they desire.

Although schools may not have the right morally, schools, with the support of the Labour Government Education Dept, are being told that they are operating within the law which enables tham to 'fingerprint' children without informing parents - until this assumed right is tested in a court of law.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Superglueing fingers

A friend sent me this from Klei's site.

India installing fingerprint systems in 40,000 schools

We think we've got it bad in in Britain and the USA with using biometrics with children in schools, at a completely disproportionate rate to the adult population that use biometric systems. (Perhaps because adults have a grasp of their rights maybe?)

But move over UK and USA - enter India. 40,000 schools are to be using such biometric fingerprint systems within 3 years. That's some contract.

With there only being around 25,000 schools in the UK this gives a sense of perspective to the speed and growth of the biometric industry going into schools in India.

Unsurprisingly these fingerprint systems are being foisted on "one of the most backward districts of Gujarat having predominant tribal population and low literacy" - so no complaints there then!

In this particular setting I can partly understand why biometric technology is being deployed here, but I would hope that, as a tool, it is not abused as well, as the people that are using this are clearly some of the worlds most vunerable.

"The pilot project covers 680 primary schools, 70 Cluster Resource Centres (CRCs) and 4 Block Resources Centres (BRCs) in Narmada district, one of the most backward districts of Gujarat having predominant tribal population and low literacy. It will cover around 2,508 teachers and 76,000 students.

The expanded project is expected to cover around 40,000 schools, which are to be covered, in a phased manner, in the coming 2-3 years."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oh no....

Clayton school district in Missouri, are, next month, going to install fingerprint scanners in school lunch lines.

Oh dear...

"It's not a fingerprint," said Howie O'Neil, departing business administrator and board secretary.

"It's a mathematical algorithm based on a of couple points on the fingers and this cannot be traced by anybody or passed on."


Friday, September 07, 2007

New US legislation halts school fingerprint technology

This from the Chicago Tribune:

Shortly after rolling out a new lunch program that allows pupils to pay for hot meals with a scan of their fingerprint, Wilmette school officials put the system on hold after learning that a new Illinois law limits the use of biometric information to protect children's privacy.

Illinois General Assembly SB1702, specifically dealing with school biometric databases, came into effect on the 1st August this year.

Adam Denenberg, the school district's director of technology and media is quoted in the article saying, " fingerprints are stored or could be obtained by police."

However, a child's biometric fingerprint algorithm, stored on a school database, can be accessed by police, as SB1702, section 5(B), on page 4, details:

(5) A prohibition on the sale, lease, or other disclosure of biometric information to another person or entity, unless:

(B) the disclosure is required by court order.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Schools dinners drop by 250,000

The number of secondary school children taking school meals has dropped by 250,000 in the past two years.

The Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA) National School Meals Survey have some interesting statistics:

In Primary Schools the number eligible for free school meals has dropped from 17.3% to 15.9% and the uptake from 14.2% to 13.1%.

In Secondary Schools the number eligible for free school meals dropped from 14.4% to 13.1% and the uptake from 10.6% to 9.6%.

The service is under immense pressure and already being seen by many private contractors as a non-viable operation.

LACA’s concern is that this may well be the case too for public sector caterers. It is not inconceivable that local authorities would consider abandoning the [food] service as budgets are unable to sustain the costs involved with the introduction of the New School Food Standards, particularly if Secondary students can continue to obtain, on the way to school and in break times, the food and drink items banned in school.

Why on earth would a school buy a biometric cashless system when clearly this is an area NOT to invest in at present, but manufacturers claims that such systems boost school meal uptake fly in the face of these recent LACA figures.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Fingerprinting in Australian schools

Fingerprint biometrics in Australian schools is coming and civil liberties groups aren't happy about it.

"Australian Education Union state secretary Mary Bluett said the swipe card technology was too expensive for most state schools, but advances in fingerprint technology meant it would eventually be introduced throughout secondary schools.

The push for biometric security measures comes from a school photography company, Academy Attendance Systems which is offering technology that scans a student's thumbprint..." I bet it is!

Civil Liberties Council President Cameron Murphy says fingerprint logging is also a concern.

“It’s just not appropriate to be forcing school students to hand over their fingerprints so that they can be logged and on their way in and way out but also kept on a database for the rest of their life,” he said.