Monday, February 17, 2014

Defiant 13 year old - "stand up for what they believe in, even if it means standing alone"

Melody, 13, protesting the
 United Kingdom's policy of
 obtaining biometric data
 from minors at school.
Photo: Kirstie
After reading about a 13 year old's plucky stance objecting to her school using a biometric fingerprint system last week, by wearing an Anonymous Mask, it gave me some hope that having a choice in this matter is filtering through to children.  Children that do not want to be part of a biometric system ultimately have the last say on this - if they do not want to participate their decision overrides consent given by their parents (though in this case the parent did not consent).

The school involved in this, should have made clear to the students that they have a choice in this.  The Department of Education's template letter for schools to send to parents states:

'Even if you have consented, your child can object or refuse at any time to their biometric information being taken/used. [His/her] objection does not need to be in writing. We would appreciate it if you could discuss this with your child and explain to them that they can object to this if they wish.'

Not knowing the name of the school Melody attends, the student who objected, I am not able to ask the school or check their website, to see if they made this fact known to students or their parents.  Maybe they didn't judging by Melody's comments to the Digital Journal

"Many didn't want their fingerprints taken, but on the day when the fingerprinting was to take place, there was only me and a friend. And she has now had her fingerprints taken."

The next statement made by Melody is quite concerning:

"The dinner lady got my finger and tried to move it onto the scanner even while I was wearing my mask, I had already explained I'm not doing it and didn't have my mum's consent [to be fingerprinted]. I just pulled my hand away and refused again."

Really?  Isn't that assault, an adult trying to move a child's finger onto a scanner when they have already expressed their legal right to refuse?  This is highly irregular and indicates the staff have no idea of the child's rights in law as contained in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, Chapter 2, 26 (5) which reads:
But if, at any time, the child— 
(a) refuses to participate in, or continue to participate in, anything that involves the processing of the child’s biometric information, or 
(b) otherwise objects to the processing of that information,  
the relevant authority must ensure that the information is not processed, irrespective of any consent given by a parent of the child under subsection 
Good for Melody that she held out from this intimidation.  She knows her rights and that of her parents and is exercising them.  If only more children had this conviction maybe biometric technology would not be viable in schools.  As it seems that schools are not telling students they have this right, then in a compliant environment which school is, students are going to feel compelled to conform and give up their biometric identifier if they do not know they have the right to say 'no'.  As Melody's Mum stated in the Digital Journal's article"You can either be part of the solution or remain part of the problem".   Parents can be "part of the solution" and not consent to this and so can the students - if they are given that choice by the knowledge they too can refuse.

Let's hope the message Melody sends out by her opting out inspires other children to do the same.

When Melody was asked what do you think will happen next and a message to give, she replied:

"In all honesty, I don't know. But I hope my actions have encouraged my generation to stand up for what they believe in, even if it means standing alone... We shouldn't be scared of giving our opinion or not following the rules."

Words of wisdom and strength of heart coming from a 13 year old.  We should take stock of what this teenager is saying here.  There is incidious surveillance creeping into schools which is slowly desensitising the next generation into a Big Brother state, so it is heartening to see that Melody has refused to use by wearing an Anonymous mask conveying her opinion on "taking children's privacy away." 

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