Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Freedom Bill

Without wanting to nit-pick points too much and argue with written submissions to the Freedom Bill Committee, I just wish to point out some facts to balance up statements made on the use of biometrics in schools included in some submissions.

The The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) have submitted a written submission to the Freedom Bill committee:

ASCL: "It is not clear why schools and further education colleges, respectable and responsible public bodies, are singled out in this chapter. If this data [children's biometrics] could be misused, it is surely more likely to be so by other organisations than these..."

Schools and further education are singled out because there has been, and still is, a parental backlash and worries, as posts to this blog will reveal and I am sure the Leave Them Kids Alone website would back this up too. And because childrens fingerprint biometrics do get stolen, potentially misused, as mentioned by one supplier of biometric systems to schools, details here,

ASCL: "School and college leaders are not aware of the use of this kind of technology causing any problems for any young person, nor of any but very isolated concern about its use amongst parents"

Well... no need to go any further than my previous post on this one, as teachers themselves won't use their biometrics, according to one of the biggest teaching Unions NASUWT, as they consider it "an infringement on their civil liberties". 

The Home Office's advice to the Freedom Bill Committee on children understanding the issues of schools using their biometrics: "The issues around the use of biometric data are particularly subtle and complex, and even more mature children may not be able to fully appreciate them. In other areas such as marriage and making a will children under the age of 18 need parental consent. In our view the issues around the giving of biometric data are similar in that respect."        


Karen said...

Following on from your blog of the 5th April in which you mention that teachers will not use the biometric data. Does this imply that the database itself is not kept by the school and is therefore not secure? Is this the misuse of data by other organisations that the ASCL are referring ?
I ask these questions as a concerned parent myself of a child who uses the cashless catering facilities provided by a company called Vericool mentioned in an earlier blog by yourself. I have just asked my child if the system uses fingerprint verification and it does. Again I too, was not asked to consent to these being taken, nor was I informed that this fingerprint verification data would be stored on a database or where that database would be held.
I think there are bigger issues here than just those of concerned parents worried about our parental rights being taken away from us. It would seem that there is potential for this database to eventually (provided every school signs up) hold the biometric fingerprints of everyone in the country who attended school since 2001.
Perhaps we should be asking what happens to this data once a child leaves school. Where does it go? Is it securely destroyed? Have we as a nation become so used to a surveillance society that we simply disregard these issues over parental rights? Has this type of surveillance become the norm?

Pippa King said...

Hi Karen,

About the security of the databases I'm afraid we just don’t know how secure they are and who can access them. The Government have done no research on this, so all we can do as parents is take the biometric vendors word that the system is secure... that is if you even know that your childrens biometrics are being used to ask the question.

All schools are bound by the Data Protection Act but it is interesting to note that some teachers in schools won't use them as they are concerned about it compromising their civil liberties.

Potentially the police could access the fingerprint database if it helped them solve a crime. Can the police access to school fingerprint systems use this fingerprint information to convict a child or place a child at a crime scene?

Again we don't know as no research into the interoperability of school fingerprint systems has been done.

Taking childrens biometric data without parental consent raises some issues.

My children were nearly fingerprinted when they were 6 and 7 without my knowledge. As a parent I found it incredulous that the law allows institutions to take this data from a child without fully informed consent from parents or even having to inform them.

Lets hope the Freedom Bill tackles the issues this new technology poses.