Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Maryland introduce a bill Prohibiting Collection of Biometric Information from Students

USA - Maryland Schools stopped the implementation of biometric palm scanners for cashless catering in December 2012 after privacy concerns were aired by parents. 

After a Board of Education meeting, Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Steve Guthrie told WBAL  “I made the decision to suspend it after concerns were being expressed by the community.  There was division on those who were for the palm scanner and those who were against it. It is not my intent to alienate any segment of our community. It is my job to unify the community, not to create divisions.”   A respectful and fairly unique stance taken by the school district with regards to the implementation of biometric systems.  They are looking into an alternative system.

On February 7th 2013 a Bill, SB855, was introduced by Senator Getty to the US Maryland Government which reads:

Public Schools – Collection of Biometric Information from Students – Prohibited 

FOR the purpose of prohibiting a county board or a person subject to the direction and control of the county board from collecting biometric information from students enrolled in a public school; defining a certain term; and generally relating to the collection of biometric information from students enrolled in public schools.

The scanners in Maryland were supplied by PalmSecure, a Fujitsu property.  The above Bill is probably not the desired effect Fujitsu envisioned when they first trialed the infra-red vein scanning technology on primary school children in Scotland in 2006.  The desired effect was articulated by Mike Nelson's the General Manager of Fujitsu Europe in 2006, who said at the time:

"Biometric solutions will increasingly allow us to move towards a cashless society and this project is one of the first real examples in the UK of an innovative and truly practical biometric solution in operation. I fully expect this to be the first of many similar implementations across Europe"

(The original link to the news article quoting Mike Nelson on Fujitsu's site has been removed (it was 7 years ago) but his comments are also reported here.)

Thankfully Fujitsu's vision of a cashless society, aided by infra-red palm scans, has not yet materialised and the existence of this Bill proves society's reluctance to use such technologies.

Is there a coincidence that these technologies are being aimed at the next generation in schools to get them young? prepare for technology companies, and possibly a government's, dream of a cashless society? 

Children embrace technology without the mature questioning that an adult mind brings, in this case the parents have intervened and a Senator introduced a Bill on the use of biometric technology in schools with children.  Whether the Bill becomes enacted or not, a public debate will be had on the topic, which has to be a positive and healthly process for our society.

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