Monday, May 26, 2014

Florida Gov signs legislation to ban biometrics in schools & SIBA's reaction

Florida Gov Rick Scott
Florida Governor Rick Scott signed SB188 on May 12th 2014 which banned biometrics in schools. Groundbreaking legislation, the first of its kind globally.

This now sets a precedent for other like minded states to follow in the same vein.  Governor Scott signed the legislation, as a part of a number of measures to "prevent unnecessary collection of data from our students", to more free up Florida's commitment to the controversial Common Core education initiative.

In the meantime the newly formed Security Identity and Biometrics Association (SIBA), born out of Washington DC in February 2014 (coincidentally in the month the Florida legislature voted overwhelmingly in support of the biometric ban), is very keen to see a halt to schools banning biometrics.

So much so, they have devoted a sizable proportion of their website detailing how SIBA plans to  produce four Fact Sheets, under a promotion named KickStartto be aimed presumably at schools "to dispel myths; advance positive legislative solutions; report on school uses, successes and challenges; and support schools and their vendors seeking positive change for their communities" costing $2,500 each.  These facts sheets will be advertising the companies that sponsor the sheets.

I could write some fact sheets about biometric technology used by children in schools, with their use both in the UK and US over the past decade for considerably less money, that would be carefully referenced with facts, via citations.   So I await with baited breath to see what 'facts' these four Fact Sheets costing $10,000 will contain.  Hopefully the sheets will have independent, credible evidence to back up any facts made and I look forward to reading them - that is if SIBA publishes them on their website.

SIBA's drive to get schools on board is subtly said in a photograph on this page carrying the statement that "Schools need our help!", when in reality the education system is working absolutely fine without children authenticating themselves via a measurement of their body to eat, register or take a book from a library.

Do adults use biometric technology in order to eat?  No.  In fact there is distrust about biometrics in adult society and is there any wonder with this recent headline from Biometric Update "
Canadian academics, privacy groups issue statement against mass spying".  When data protection and privacy laws are not enforceable and general unease lies with biometric technology, why is there a drive to encourage children in schools to use their biometrics?  

Some might say that it is not in the government's interest to have schools ban biometrics when really their agenda is to soften the next generation to the technology, using a compliant environment to do so?

An upcoming event SIBA are having in June 2014 is "closed door" with two speakers, Alan Bersin, Acting Assistant Secretary for policy for the US Department of Homeland Security and Vice-president for the Americas Interpol and Bob Mocny, Director in the Office of Biometric Management, part of the  US Department of Homeland Security.  It is not boding well for transparency when one of SIBA's first events is 'closed door' and the speakers are from a US government department which is widely perceived as having largely eroded the privacy of the people of the United States.

I feel, for me and others concerned about the use of biometric technology with children, SIBA looks like a US government led organisation bent on promoting biometrics in schools, worried by the recent legislation passed in Florida.  I have asked SIBA how they are funded, who their members are and where and when they were conceived as this information is not on their website.

Openness and clarity from SIBA is vitally important on this so that we, as parents, are aware of who is driving the agenda for our children to authenticate themselves with biometric identifiers for day to day services in education...  I await SIBA's answer.

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