Monday, February 09, 2015

Compulsory fingerprinting for primary school children in Australia

Fingerprinting children in school, especially primary school children, is a contentious issue - with parents and children having the right in the UK not to participate.  Schools must seek written consent to take and process a child's biometric data.

Not so in Australia it seems.

In this article it reported that East Para Primary School has told parents they have "no choice" in the matter for a school registration system that will eventually be introduced for parents too if they want to enter the school.  The school's current newsletter states the same blerb parents have had here in the UK reassuring that no image of the fingerprint will be stored, it cannot be reconstructed and the biometric data will not be given to government or agencies... but put plainly it is a biometric mark/measure of your child's body, in this case a fingerprint, that has to stay secure, safe and never be compromised.

Giving up ones biometric may not be considered a proportionate use of personal data.  Parents should be able to decide what level of privacy they want for themselves and their children in this respect.

The article 'East Para Primary School pupils to have fingerprints scanned as part of new student attendance record-keeping program' goes on to report:

School mother Sandra Tomasin said she was disgusted by the move and immediately rang the school to ask that her Year 1 son be exempt from the program.

“They have told me that I have no choice,’’ Ms Tomasin said.

“It is an invasion of privacy. I don’t want to let it happen but I want to keep him at the school.’’

Ms Tomasin said regardless of whether or not finger prints were stored by the system, primary school children having to scan their fingers when they came and went to school was outrageous.

Sandra Tomasin is rightly outraged and should have a right for her child to attend school and NOT having to give up their biometric data.

In the UK schools fell short of giving this ultimatum as it was thought to breach Human Rights legislation by denying a service to a child because they chose not to give up their biometric data, any ultimatum of this sort was also on shaking grounds with Article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child  (right to privacy) "Every child has the right to privacy. The law should protect the child’s private, family and home life." - which does apply to Australia.

The below statement was made by Privacy International in 2002 about library systems that used children's fingerprint biometrics in the UK to log books in and out.  It is still applicable now.

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