Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Liverpool councillors sever all ties with biometric technology in schools

This from the Liverpool Echo:

"A meeting of the full council will be asked to express its formal “opposition to the fingerprinting of children by schools” and a ban on any local authority-led promotion of its use save for a criminal investigation.

Picton ward councillor Andrew Makinson who is behind the motion said the £20,000 average cost of installing it could be better spent on school staff.

He said government mishaps with personal information was proof all systems were vulnerable.

Council leader Warren Bradley stressed it had always been down to individual schools to adopt the technology.

He added: “It would be wrong to implement a policy and support something which could potentially be of detriment to the protection of our children.”"

Biometric systems 100% safe?

Nunnery Wood High School in Worcester is planning to use children's fingerprints for logging pupils in and out of school and for cashless catering systems.

The system is on trial at the moment with a view to it being fully implemented in 12 months but there are concerns from parents, one parent, Angie Wilkes, stated that:

“Biometric data, when included on UK passports, was hacked within two weeks by Lukas Grunwald, a consultant with a German security company, using a piece of software costing £105,”

You can understand her concerns, yet the school insisted that "the system is 100 per cent safe" - mmm... no system is 100% safe.

"Headteacher Alun Williams said the school had taken advice from government agency Becta, and had carried out rigorous research. " If the Head has done rigorous research he will know that the systems are not 100% safe.

As far as BECTA carrying out rigorous research on biometric systems in schools - they simply haven't. Their advice given July 2007 was given with no research into these systems whatsoever, I know that as a fact as the Freedom of Information Act was used to see what research they had done - zilch.

So for all you Head Teachers out there thinking that BECTA know about these systems, think again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Busy summer

I've have a had a some weeks off blogging over summer - been 'bloggling' vacant, I've had time to address home garden and upstairs room decorating-ish!

Been quite interesting over summer ... a few schools bringing biometrics in without parents being fully aware.

I wonder how many of you parents, especially with children going to high school, have have notification or permissiom/consent slips for the giving over or your children's biometric data for basic administrative functions within school?

As children start school the biometric systems employed by schools are not always made aware to new parents and pupils? Why would they be - if it's not a requirement of law (?)

Registration? Library? School dinners? School trips? School Vending Machines?

I (we), as parents, have just had 'permsission' forms to send back to our children's school, signed, for food tasting, crossing the road, photographs taken, video taken, swimming lessons, basket/football/rugby/ball tournaments off and on site, oh and a "contract" re behaviour. (there was even a slip to send back stating that I had received the above forms stating the above and diary dates!)

No mention that our school has a biometric system for library use. A three year old system, and that a biometric fingerprint is used enable extraction and reading of a library book for those from 4 years old.

However my children tell me now that the biometric libary system in their primary school is no longer in use. They use barcodes now... pupils rarely even/not ever comment on the 'thumb print gadet that was'... - it's a "has been" event to them, not even that.

Getting a library book out is the main event for them - not how they get it out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ousedale Secondary School, Newport Pagnell, is planning to use biometric fingerprints from it's pupils to access to canteen. The MKNews reports that the school "has received a string of angry, anonymous letters of complaint about the scheme"

One 15-year-old pupil who contacted the paper by email said: "The Government is so insistent on snooping on us all to a point where they are fingerprinting us to buy our lunches. They are treating us like criminals."

Monday, July 14, 2008

More schools - same misinformation

Although I haven't posted here for quite a while I've been busy behind the scenes gathering some information using the Freedom of Information Act from various bodies with some interesting results on how the governments advice for schools using biometrics was constructed and we've also had some interest from the media on the subject of biometrics in schools. So although not "bloggingly vocal" - still at it!

So what has been happening?....

Seems that the media coverage over the past month or so has been constant with parents voicing their concerns across the country.

This video from the BBC site about Caldicott Comprehensive School, Newport, Wales, where parents are protesting about fingerprint systems. The school hasn't consulted with parents at all.

Chipping Campden comprehensive in Gloucestershire, where the actor Chris Jury's child attends, is rolling out biometrics for catering and registration, as the Telegraph and Cotswold Journal reports. The Coltswold Journal states that:

"He was responding to a letter she circulated to her pupils' parents announcing biometric machines would be installed at the school." and rightly so - is this the schools idea of consultation? Telling the parents is an arrogant way of assuming consent from parents (or children for that matter).

Abbey College, Ramsey in Cambridgeshire are introducing a fingerprint cashless catering. According to the Hunts Post:

"The school has assured parents that no one has access to the information and that the data can "never be viewed as anything other than a string of numbers and letters".

Obviously the company selling the biometric system to the school hasn't informed them about research done in the United States on how fingerprints can be recovered from such systems.

As the government nor academics in the UK have not had access to any systems that are sold to schools to test whether the schools statement is true, judgement can only be taken on the basis of work that has been done in the States on this.

Abbey College school also state that "no one has access to the information" - wrong. The police can have access if they believe that it will help solve a crime. This is what the Deputy Information Commissioner, David Smith, had to say on this in May 2007 with regard to school biometric systems (see Q50 and Q51):

"The police [can] make an access request. The school looks at: "Would we breach the Data Protection Act if we respond to the police?" If they can say that not giving the information would be likely to prejudice prevention or detection of crime and does not say a level of crime, or the apprehension or prosecution of an offender, then they can give that information without breaching the Act. A low level of crime would justify that"

So think again when a school states that no one can access information.

And £30,000 is being spent in Nequay's Tretherras School in Cornwall on biometric cashless catering, with a further £1500 spent each year on the license to have the technology.

Apart from the issues of consent, who can access to information and the possible re-engineering of fingerprints the additional issue of cost is huge.

When my children were nearly fingerprinted 3 years ago , at 6 & 7 years old, there were two companies selling biometric fingerprint systems - now there are nearly 20 companies in the market place here in the UK - a market that is ultimately driven by our tax payers money. We are funding this biometric market.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Children's biometric data at risk

Just caught the below on the Thumbs down blog run by a parent, about the complete lack of security surrounding a computer with children's biometric data on - how appalling!

"A very short comment on the school’s security:

At pick up today we walked through the nursery playground. I usually go the other way, but we both went today.

The library is inside a cottage between the Nursery and the Infant School. As I walked past the cottage door, I noticed it was wide open.

Around the corner I glanced in through the library window and saw that the room was empty. 5 minutes or so later, after a significant number of parents had walked past it, the cottage door was still open.

I poked my head inside and called “Hello! Anybody there?” Quite loudly. Reply came there none, so I walked in the three steps to the library door, tried the handle and opened it. There by the door was the computer, with the thumbscanner, just to confirm it is the one with the biometric data inside.

This is the computer about which the Governors saidreasonable security measures are taken”."

Friday, June 06, 2008

School upsets parents by fingerprinting their kids

More than 700 students were fingerprinted last week by the Clinton County School District and some parents aren't happy. Parents learned about the fingerprinting only after it happened.

Unbelievable! Seems that the school authorities in the UK and USA are simply not grasping that before they go finger scanning, storing and recording our kids biometric data they must communicate with us on this or risk alienating the parent population . Some parents, in the UK, were so angered by this they went to the police.

More UK schools using childrens fingerprints

Biometric technology using children's fingerprints is well underway across the UK. When systems using biometric fingerprints can cost up to £27,000 this is certainly a big business concern (funded by our taxes!).

The Bexhill-on-sea Observer reports that William Parker Sports College in Hasting has gone fully cashless:

Biometric fingerprints will be used by both pupils and staff to pay for everything from school dinners to theatre trips.

"We will be the first school in the town to be a cashless college," said John Court. "All our catering and anything that parents have to pay for will be paid for from online student accounts."

and in the Journel Live in Tyneside...

A North Tyneside school is spending £15,000 on the latest fingerprinting technology to curb bullying at lunchtime. Every child attending Churchill Community College in Howdon, has had their thumb prints scanned ahead of the launch of the new cashless payment system after the half-term break.

The biometric system is designed to reduce bullying in schools and any potential stigma suffered by those receiving free school meals.

Was bullying so bad at Churchill Community College that they felt the need to throw £15,000 at it? Over in Lancashire it's reported that in Bowland High School:

School dinners have been given a hi-tech overhaul. Headteacher Mr Stephen Cox said:

"Although biometric identification has been used in schools for library use for a number of years, we are one of the first schools in Lancashire to embrace the technology for use in paying for school meals, while it is early days the pupils have embraced the technology and we are hoping it will enhance their lunchtime experience by speeding up service."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Misinformation and no consent - still!

Again and again the same old cr*p is spouted by schools to parents about it's not a fingerprint that's taken so don't worry.

Obviously they have not done their research and believe whatever spiel the biometric sales persons are giving them. Here's what Education Bradford say about Junior Librarian, which according to them, is recommended by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

"Publicity material from the manufacturers states: "No image of the fingerprint itself is ever stored and the unique number that is generated during registration can never be used to recreate an image of the original scan.""

These biometric readers have not been scrutinized by the government, as Jim Knight MP admits himself, or any independent experts here in the UK [unless any of the biometric vendors can inform otherwise or offer a system for scrutiny] - however the above statement, by Junior Librarian, can be challenged as US universities have reverse engineered fingerprints from such systems.

Along the line somewhere the complete truth isn't being aired.

On top of the misinformation given to parents, and despite advice from the government and the Information Commissioner on the practice of using biometric technology with children, schools are still taking biometric fingerprints from children without informing parents.

Parents, in Keithley, when the school had taken childrens biometric fingerprints without consent were concerned enough to contact the police and Ofsted.

Little Lever School, Bolton and Long Lee School, Keithley are the recent culprits have committed the two offences of giving misleading information and not consulting parents.

So the recent government advice is working well then...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wanted - Smith and Browns Fingerprints

Just caught this on the Privacy International site - fingerprints of Smith and Brown "wanted".

It reads:

GUILTY of reckless endangerment of our personal security by storing our fingerprints on a central ID database and risking another catastrophic data breach.

GUILTY of willful intent to undermine our right to own and control our biometrics.

etc, etc...

The fingerprints of Wolfgang Schauble, Germany's interior minister, who believes strongly in the collection of "citizens' unique physical characteristics as a means of preventing terrorism" has already been got. Look out Smith and Brown.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander surely...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Another concerned parent blogging about fingerprinting children

Another parent has set up a blog after their high school in Derry, Northern Ireland, fingerprinted pupils WITHOUT parental consent - worth a read -

"Oakgrove College Derry, a secondary school in the north of Ireland has fingerprinted most of its pupils to "help speed up school meals". Parental consent was not sought before this mass fingerprint piracy was launched. This sneak attack on civil liberties should be opposed by every parent who cares for the personal data of their children"

With no surprise at all the DCSF's (DfES) guidance is being totally ignored by schools (if they even know it exists). The Information Commissioner's Office states that schools doing this, not involving parents, is "heavy-handed".

Heavy-handed it may be but schools do it. Until the law is changed this children's biometric market grows - with every penny of it being generated by the taxes we pay.

There is a growing band of annoyed, concerned parents voicing their anger and worries on this.

The NO2ID message board on biometrics in schools is getting busier with more parents outraged that their children have been fingerprinted and posts on there from concerned students too with lots of good advice there too.

Good for the parent who's started that blog - more people should know about this.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Australian school stops fingerprinting students after allegations of intimidation

Having been away for a while seems that things have been a little busy.

In Australia it seems that some heavy handedness was used to fingerprint students for monitoring attendance levels at Ku-ring-gai High School .

A quote from one Year 12 student shows that the school maybe should be spending money on educating the children in their care as it is quite clear that this student really has not grasped how government institutions should operate, "Perhaps a lesson from this is that parents and students should involve themselves in the school community and in the decisions being made on their behalf." what?!- no, the school should be asking express permission from parents and debating whether or not this level of technology is needed and how better money can be spent.

But then when it is alleged that school staff intimidated and insulted students who were unwilling to take part in the trial, then truancy sounds like the least of the problems at Ku-ring-gai High School.

Good for student Brad Lorge who refused to be fingerprinted! "When I began to question, I was informed that I would be stupid to not comply and that there was no reason for me to not provide my fingerprint," he said. "It was intimidating. I was the only one out of the four who refused to provide my fingerprint."

..and this from an ex-student there.

Needless to say that the biometric fingerprinting system is currently on hold at the school.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fingerprinting children for food reduces schools "annoyances"

On the fingerprinting of children for food in schools, doubts arise:

“The benefits certainly do not justify the privacy violations that we’re seeing,” said Alessandra Meetze, executive director of the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

But Beverly Blough, the director of food service in Wood County School District, West Virginia, cited that the pressures of No Child Left Behind was the reason why West Virginia schools used biometric systems -apparently it would...

...reduce the annoyances that would take the principal and staff away from education and focusing on things that were relatively minor in a student’s day.”

A mother, Joy Robinson-Van Gilder, from Illinois who has been instrumental in bringing about a change in the the law in Illinois to limit/regulate how biometric technology is used with children, said:

“It just opens a huge database out there that’s just easy for identity theft, I think it’s against their civil rights, without a doubt, and it is an invasion of privacy.”

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Biometrics - what data is logged alongside our childrens biometrics?

There is a really informative article here by Rachel Wareing about schools in Sussex, UK, implementing children's biometrics for these reasons:

Parents can see what their children are eating for lunch.

Teachers do not have to waste time taking a register. [!]

School librarians no longer have to issue books.

...others to see what reading habits our children have, by gender, age and ethnicity - sensitive information needs to be dealt with under the UK Data Protection Act.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

£25,000 biometric cashless system bought - based on "commonly perceived benefits"

At the end of January Sophie McKeand's child's school told parents they were "introducing a "cashless catering system", where children will pay for their school dinners using either a fingerprint identification system or a pin number". This is in Flintshire, Wales.

Sophie rightly objected "to have such important and sensitive biometric data being taken from children for a matter as trivial as buying lunch is absolutely absurd."

Since then Sophie has been busy finding out, via the Freedom of Information Act, just how much these systems cost (using our tax money), where the funding is coming from, who made the decision to implement such systems, etc. - interesting reading indeed.

Her Freedom of Information questions and answers, for Flintshire County Council, are on the "Biometrics in Schools" forum over on the NO2ID site.

Here are a few questions and answers:

3. What is the FULL, TOTAL AND FINAL cost of this system in Alun School?

A3.The full cost of the system in the Alun School is as follows:

PCS Systems £20,905.00
Software £ 1,062.32
Installation £ 1,162.50
Server £ 283.14
Printer etc. £ 574.00
Writing/Electrics £ 1,162.50

TOTAL £25,149.46 [this is cost for one school]

1. I wish to be provided with ALL cost / benefit analysis that have been completed concerning anything whatsoever to do with implementing these cashless systems in Flintshire schools. Not just for Mold Alun but for all schools in Flintshire as stated in the quote from the first letter from Alun School, above. This includes all equipment, maintenance and IT services.

A1. The Council holds no information regarding a cost/benefit analysis. [What?]
The commonly perceived benefits however, are that..... then follows some drivel about reducing bullying and enabling children to eat before afternoon registration, up take of free meals increased, blah, blah.

So, lets get this right...

...the council spends 25K of our money on a biometric/pin cashless catering system purely based on "commonly perceived benefits" - with no cost/benefit analysis to justify such expenditure?

IMHO this sounds like jawdropping negligence.

Flintshire County Council sound like they've been sold a line. "Commonly perceived benefits" that are backed up with absolutely no academic or government literature, but I guess probably literature from sales persons.

It would seem that the implementation of the systems (that were originally proposed to be run throughout all Flintshire Schools, which would be around £250,000 of taxpayers money) has not been a completely open and transparent process, as reported today:

"Cllr Ray Dodd said he shared some of Miss McKeand's concerns. "I am surprised that this biometric system has been introduced in a school already without any consultation with elected councillors.

The education department said there has been extensive consultation, I have not been able to establish any consultation with county councillors,"

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Iowa rejects the re-introduction of fingerprint scanners in schools

Des Moines Register, Iowa, USA, reports the bills that are up for debate, and therefore possible legislation, and those that are not to be debated and made into law.

"...state lawmakers pushed dozens of bills through committee, saving them from today's so-called "funnel" deadline. The week is a pivotal time for legislation. Bills that made the deadline will be debated. Those that failed the funnel are done."

Biometric fingerprint scanners in schools didn't make it through the 'funnel'.


FINGERPRINT SCANNERS: Some schools want to be able to use fingerprint scanners to speed children through lunch lines, the library checkout and bus boarding. State lawmakers outlawed the devices for school use in 2005 amid concerns about legal issues, privacy and information hacking. And this idea was stripped from Senate Study Bill 3010 this year.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Parents to be consulted about biometric systems in Sussex school

Warden Park School in Cuckfield, Sussex, could be using childrens fingerprints for paying for school lunches:

"The biometric technology could be introduced at the school as early as June if parents support the proposals.

Using pupils' fingerprints in schools has been criticised by many MPs, including Sussex Conservatives Nick Gibb and Tim Loughton, who fear sensitive information about children could fall into the wrong hands.

Mr Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, has said it is another step towards a surveillance society."

At least the school is going to consult with parents but according to headteacher Steve Johnson hundreds of schools in the region now used the technology.

If Warden Park School make their decision in favour of the technology a Freedom of Information Act Request could be in order to determine:

Our public money cost. Cost/benefit analysis. (One such system sold to a school in Leeds, according to the Headteacher on BBC Radio 4 "You and Yours" programme, cost £14,000 - after a Freedom of Information request this turned out to be over £27,000 - only a slight misrepresentation of 13K of our money!)

Where/which budget the money to purchase system is coming from.

The extent of parental consultation.

How this technology can "reduce bullying" i.e. related bullying figures re: catering before installation.

How many instances of "children stealing other pupils' dinner money" happened before biometric catering system installed.
A spokesperson from the company hoping to sell the system to the school stated that the "guidelines from the Department for Children, Schools and Families made it clear data could not be passed to any third party organisations" - erm... not quite true, see Q50 & 51 in parliament.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

American Civil Liberties Union voice concerns using childrens fingerprints for food purchase

Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Minnesota on the possible introduction of fingerprint scanners for lunch lines at Oltman Junior High in St. Paul Park and East Ridge High School.:

"This is a solution in search of a problem. It just baffles me. Of all the problems schools face, is this really an issue?"

Officials think it will speed up lunch lines, solve the problem of children forgetting their ID numbers and prevent identity theft (?!)

But the comments from the biometric vendor in this article are quite bizarre and would be funny if they weren't so seriously off the mark :

"There always seems to be this knee-jerk reaction that somehow, some way, a person is giving up their identity." - putting a child's biometric details on a relatively unsecure system, biometric details that have to be secure for the lifetime of the child, decades in fact, for insignificant tasks such as paying for food I would argue IS most definitely "giving up their identity" to significant risk.

When you bear in mind the obvious fact that computers are advancing at a great rate along with transferable softwear from biometric database to biometric database (and with that hackers abilities) that using childrens biometric for mundane administrative tasks is wholly inappropriate.

This biometric vendor goes on to say:

"It's absolutely the opposite. It actually protects a person's identity." - right...

Utah to fingerprint pupils for lunches?

In Utah, parents are to discuss this month whether the use of fingerprint technology, for lunch payments and monitoring childrens eating habits, in Draper public schools is appropriate.

Let's hope they make a sensible informed decision - listen to the schools reasoning but also take on board other expert opinion, such as Microsoft's Architect of Identity, Kim Cameron.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Arizona Senate bill bans biometrics in schools

Arizona, USA, have a bill SB1216 banning biometrics in schools, details below and here is the 'fact sheet' of the bill.

It heartening that people are taking on board the issues that arise with the, increasingly obvious, inappropriate use of biometric technology with children in schools.

When it was reported that Espiritu community schools in Phoenix, USA, fingerprinted children, without informing parents, in mid January 2008 it taken a little over a month for this bill to happen.

I hope this speedy action shames our Labour UK Members of Parliament to act as the elected people of Arizona have, i.e. working the people that elected them - although I'm not holding my breath.

Well done to mum, Shirley Wallace, Arizona State Sen. Karen Johnson and State Rep. Andy Biggs, the others that supported this bill and Fred Bellemy, a Phoenix attorney who specializes in Technology Law for their efforts to bring this bill about in such a short amount of time.

REFERENCE TITLE: schools; biometric information; prohibition

State of Arizona Senate, Forty-eighth Legislature, Second Regular Session 2008

SB 1216

Introduced by
Senators Johnson, Blendu: Gray C, Harper; Representative Pearce


amending Title 15, chapter 1, article 1, Arizona Revised Statutes, by adding section 15-107; relating to school pupils.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona:
Section 1. Title 15, chapter 1, article 1, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended by adding section 15-107, to read:

START_STATUTE 15-107. Biometric information; prohibition; definition

A. School districts and charter schools shall not collect biometric information from pupils.

B. For the purposes of this section, "biometric information" means any information that is collected through an identification process for individual persons based on unique behavioral or physiological characteristics, including fingerprints, hand geometry, voice recognition, facial recognition, iris scans or retinal scans. END_STATUTE

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Jim Knight - what does he actually do??

With amazing consistency Jim Knight ducks and dives out of all responsibilty for his department to take stock of the fingerprinting of children in UK schools.

I'm wondering what he actually does in his role as Minister of State for Schools and Learners,(DfCSF) ?

Annette Brooke [LibDem]: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families if he will commission a review of the academic literature on the reversibility of biometric templates to recreate fingerprints.

Jim Knight: The Department has no plans to commission a review of the academic literature on the reversibility of biometric templates to recreate fingerprints. Becta is responsible for monitoring this and other aspects of technology in schools and will take appropriate action as it considers necessary. Becta published guidance on the use of biometric technology in July 2007.

Annette Brooke [LibDem]: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families if he will commission an independent assessment of the security of biometric systems used in schools (a) in libraries, (b) in canteens and (c) for registration.

Jim Knight: The Department has no plans to commission an assessment of the security systems used in schools (a) in libraries, (b) in canteens and (c) for registration. Becta is responsible for monitoring this and other aspects of technology in schools and will take appropriate action as it considers necessary. Becta published guidance on the use of biometric technology in July 2007.

Bob Spink [Cons]: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many schools in Essex fingerprint pupils; and if he will make a statement.

Jim Knight: The Department is not aware of any schools in Essex which fingerprint pupils. Some schools may use biometric technology systems involving the recording of some fingerprint characteristics. The Department does not routinely keep records of such schools since the decision to introduce biometric technology is for each school to make.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Oh the possibilities...

Dan Brawner seems to have his finger(print) on the pulse here -

LIVING IN IOWA: Forget your signature: soon the biometric thumbprint will be the new national ID

by Dan Brawner · February 06, 2008

I’m sure the Iowa Department of Education only wanted what’s best for us when they proposed the “thumbprint bill” that would have students use a biometric thumbprint scan in paying for school lunches and checking out library books. They assure us the thumbprints will not be stored or shared with government agencies or businesses. They argue convincingly that students will have to spend less time standing in lines and the new technology will keep them safer by tracking their whereabouts.

I can understand why a sophomore in his desperation to check out a copy of War And Peace does not have time to laboriously sign his name for the librarian. But after all, attendance in an institution of higher education does presuppose a certain degree of literacy. If they make it too easy to sign a document, you discover later you’ve sold Manhattan for a handful of beads.

If the thumbprint thing catches on in schools, pretty soon Mastercard will say, why carry around those silly plastic cards that could fall into the wrong hands when all you need to do at the checkout counter is plant your thumb on the scanner? Now you can buy stuff faster than ever!

Before long, the Department of Motor Vehicles will want to get into the act. Then doctors and hospitals will have patients zipping through check-in, dispensing with all that tiresome paperwork. All you will ever need is your thumb. You won’t even have to be conscious. Heck, you won’t even have to be there. Just your thumb. Parents could have detachable thumbs. “Hey, Dad, I’m driving into Chicago today. Can I borrow the thumb?” “Okay, son. Just have it back by midnight.”

Our entire identity will be defined by our thumbs. Our thumbs will represent our legal status, our financial stature, our health, our political leanings, our religious affiliations, our intrinsic worth as neighbors and citizens. Our very soul.

We will no longer be able take our thumbs for granted. We’ll have to take special care of them. If you get a scar on your thumb from peeling potatoes, it might alter your identity. “I’m sorry, Ma’am. We cannot allow you to pick up the boy you say is your son from baseball practice. According to your thumbprint, it says you are a 78-year-old Tibetan man who had his license revoked for running over a goat.”

With all our personal information stored with our thumbprint, identity theft can be surprisingly easy. Investigators found that thumbprints leave a mark on the scanner and can be made to reappear by merely breathing on the glass. We can no longer afford to expose our naked thumbs to strangers who might photograph them or lift our prints from doorknobs. We’ll have to wear special thumb lingerie to hide our most intimate secrets from prying eyes.

Sure, it will take some adjustment. But sailing through the checkout line at Wal-Mart will make it all worthwhile.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Stop Fingerprinting children in schools? at Prime Minister's Questions but no Prime Ministers Answers, unsurprisingly...

Prime Minister's Questions - Wednesday 6th Feb 2007

The 100% complete dodging round the issue of fingerprint systems in school by the PM yesterday is self explanitory below.

Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): This week’s bugging controversy should not come as a surprise to the Prime Minister. After all, it is this Government who have turned the British public into the most spied upon on the planet: 1,000 surveillance requests every day; 1 million innocent people on the Government’s DNA database; and 5,000 schools now fingerprinting our children at school. Is that what the Prime Minister meant when he spoke so stirringly a few months ago about the great British tradition of liberty?

The Prime Minister: I take it that the right hon. Gentleman and the Liberal authorities support CCTV. I take it that they support the intercept action that is taken when it is necessary for national security. I take it that he accepts that only 1,500 intercepts have been commissioned by Ministers as a result of urgent security needs. Does he accept these things or not?

Mr. Clegg: The Prime Minister seems to see no limits. He is creating a surveillance state. Why has he consistently refused requests for more power to be given to the Information Commissioner? Why does he not do what is already done in Scotland and remove the DNA of innocent people from the database? Why will he not act immediately to stop the scandalous fingerprinting of our children at school?

The Prime Minister: People in this country are reassured by the presence of CCTV; I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not proposing to remove it. That is one very important part of the investigatory and surveillance powers that we give the police to carry out their work. I would hope that the right hon. Gentleman would look at the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and see the protections that have been put in place where there is surveillance and where there are intercepts. They include authorisation by a senior officer, the right to appeal to an independent tribunal, and a commissioner for surveillance who looks at matters and reports annually. We are taking the steps to protect the liberties of the citizens; I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will support that.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Biometrics in schools - "hard to sell to parents"

A slight thought process going on at the Broome-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services on biometrics, even if it is just about the fact that "it's hard to sell to parents".

Broome-Tioga BOCES serves 15 school districts in Broome and Tioga counties, which deals with nearly 40,000 students in grades k-12 and many others in adult programs.

Kathy Alley from Broome-Tioga say that she "envisions a school district where fingerprint scanners are in cafeterias, building entrances, classrooms and buses".

Why? Apparently she cites that "missing children" will be easier to track... (how many of the 40,000 children do the 15 school districts lose?) Where is the personal eye to eye contact in registration with teacher and pupil if children are simply logged in by fingerscan?

The reason it is hard to sell to parents is because we, as adults, can make informed decisions about biometric technology and when and where we use it. Infact recently, at Heathrow Airport, when biometric technology is imposed on adults, rountinely, there is an outcry.

Children in school are in a compliant situation - a soft market for biometric companies when authorities require more and more detailed information from schools about our children.

Schools having our children's biometric identifiers, as well, is a step too far.

Monday, January 28, 2008

In and out

As Iowa plan to allow biometrics back into schools after their House File 685, the child identification and protection act, was signed into law in May 2005, biometric scanners are being axed in schools in Phoenix, Arizona.

An ill informed Jeff Berger of the state Dept of Education, Iowa, states "This technology is really perfectly safe... information can't be reconverted back into an actual fingerprint", this statement is incorrect but this continual and convenient inaccuracy of truth is obviously backed up by the biometric sales industry:

"That's true", said Ali Pabrai, the chief executive officer of, a West Des Moines-based biometrics consulting company."

Their views are not shared by Fred Bellamy, a Phoenix Attorney who specializes in Technology Law or Microsoft's Identity Architect Kim Cameron - (I know who'd I'd rather believe).

Fred Bellamy went on to say that "fingerprinting children is an invasion of privacy. “Once the data are captured no matter what kind of promises the vendor may make there is a serious risk, and I think the parents have every reason to be concerned about how this data will ultimately be used.”

Espiritu Community Schools in Phoenix used biometrics technology to scan the fingerprints of students. School officials told us it was a way to keep track of school lunches so they can receive federal aid.

But this past week, in a letter sent to all parents, the district states it's stopping the use of this technology. The letter states they will “yield the use of the biometrics finger scan system”. They are replacing it with student ID cards.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"It's just like the cop shows ..." say kids - Utah, USA

Utah, USA, are using children's biometric fingerprint data for food ...“It's a minor intrusion for better parental supervision of your children’s eating habits,” said systems administrator Eric Browning.

Juan Diego Catholic High School is the first school in Utah state to have finger scanning systems, which monitor and track students' lunch accounts. (But from the school's website on Menu A they are eating: 'Taco Bar, Subs, Chicken Enchilladas' & on Menu B 'Pizza, Subs' ....!)

But a little more credit to them, than British schools, in the fact they do let parents know on their website that they have a biometric food system.

This by Gizmodo: "Here is the thing though—the parents probably have the same horrible eating habits, so it would be hard to dole out the discipline without looking like a hypocrite. Besides, if the school is so concerned about the kids' nutritional welfare, why do they continue to serve them crap food?"

Why, really? Because it's cheap...

See this for more.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


With the appalling data losses that are now happening in our UK Government with the Inland Revenue and Customs, Child Benefits and now the UK Army , to mention a few - we parents need to make ourselves aware of data attached to our children, that may go astray.

So I'm going to make a subject access request to the head teacher at my children's school so I can see what data is logged against my children on their, each, unique National Pupil Database number - perhaps (and hopefully not probably - but not holding breath) information that may get into other peoples hands...

Monday, January 14, 2008

"Generation ID: lessons in kiddyprinting"

Redpepper have this excellent article on "kiddyprinting" in schools.

"The innocuous term ‘kiddyprinting’ refers to the controversial practice of routinely fingerprinting schoolchildren. Many parents are unaware of it because they have not been asked for their explicit consent, or in many cases even notified that it is taking place."

Suffolk schools fingerprinting for food

Stowmarket High school has started using children's fingerprints for meals, not mentioned on their website, along with Kirkley High, again not mentioned on their website either.

This from the Stowmarket Headteacher Keith Penn: “I have no concerns about any infringement of civil liberties in this instance and am not concerned about this issue." - what at all?

He should be concerned as Action on Rights for Children, Liberty, Privacy International, NO2ID, parent run site Leave Them Kids Alone and a host international experts have concerns - and in the USA Electronic Frontiers Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union have concerns as well.

Well he is only a headteacher and obviously has no experience of children's rights (although maybe he should have, being in charge of a fair few hundred of them).

Maybe these heads of schools should do some research into this issue of using children's biometric data for routine activities that, supposedly helps the schools administrative function.

See Mark Crossley's blog, editor of the Suffolk Free Press on this.

Arizona to propose leglislation for schools fingerprinting children

After Espiritu community schools in Phoenix, USA, fingerprinted children without even notifying parents to allegedly shorten lunch queues parents were rightly outraged.

Parent Shirley Wallace was outraged when she found out what happened to her kids at school. "Since when does anyone have the right to fingerprint our children, especially without parents' permission?"

Fred Bellamy is a Phoenix attorney who specializes in Technology Law. He says fingerprinting children without parental consent is sending the wrong message.

"Once the data are captured," Bellamy says, "No matter what kind of promises the vendor may make, there is a serious risk. And I think the parents have every reason to be concerned about how this data will ultimately be used."

The schools, yet again, quote the old 'it's not a fingerprint but a string of numbers...' blerb.

Fingerprints can be reconstructed from number strings, see here, however as state fingerprint databases are increasingly algorithmic it does matter or not if a fingerprint is stored as the numbers stored operate in the same way a fingerprint does. It is a biometric marker of the child using the scanner.

As a consequence "Arizona State Sen. Karen Johnson and State Rep. Andy Biggs plan to propose legislation this session. The bill would require schools to get parent’s' permission before fingerprinting any child."

Good for them.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

"Thumbs down" - another parent's blog

Another parent has set a blog up called "Thumbs down"

"At the end of 2007 I received a letter from my daughter’s school informing me that the school library was to be run on a biometric system.

I was appalled. This blog charts my attempt to have them reverse the policy.

I hope it is short."

So do I. My children's school seem now to be using a barcode system now instead of the biometric scanner they purchased in 2005 for library use, so good luck!