On Biometrics in Schools

This all starts with a seemingly innocuous letter, with the title “Cashless Catering System”, sent to the parents and carers of students from The Crown Woods School in South East London. The first sentence states:

The school is introducing a bio-metric system for pupil identification in the new College. The new system will  be used to register pupils, for use of the library and for catering use.

Biometrics in schools? When did this happen?

My initial impression is that the letter (copied at the end of this post) presents a one-sided argument of the use of such a system, focusing on the benefits. This includes selective quotes from the Data Protection Commissioner’s Office and reassurances that the “thumbprint is NOT stored”. Attached to the letter is a 2006 statement from Mark McMorran MD of Cyclone Industries, the company providing the system, stating “This is not fingerprinting of the type associated with the police”. That’s great Mark, but none of this helps to allay my fundamental uneasiness about the collection and use of such data.

Adding to these fears, the letter provides no information about any alternative should the parent decide not to give permission. They are simply asked to sign “an authorisation slip which should be returned to the school as soon as possible”.

Hmmm.

What follows is a collection of my thoughts and collaborative research on this topic since mid last week.

This is happening across the country seemingly without much scrutiny. Search for “thumbprint school” and you come up with a wealth of information on the topic, most of which seems to come from bewildered parents with questions and concerns. In March of 2010 Dr Emmeline Taylor, who conducted a study on surveillance of pupils funded by Salford University, was quoted saying “3,500 schools in the UK – one in seven [~14%] – are estimated to be using fingerprint technology”. In July of the same year a Guardian report claimed “Some estimates suggest that as many as 30% of all schools in the UK have fingerprinting technology”.

Parental consent is still a grey area since there exists no law, only advice, stopping schools taking fingerprints without permission. In fact, laws covering this are only just making their way through Parliament as part of the Protection of Freedoms Bill.

As long ago as 2002 Privacy International condemned mass fingerprinting of UK school children:

Privacy International says the practice “de-humanises our children and degrades their human rights”, and has called for the unconditional withdrawal of the technology from schools. PI’s director, Simon Davies, said “the use of such systems will have the effect of de-sensitising people to more comprehensive privacy invasion later in life”.

And on that last point I completely agree. In fact, please read that article, in it Privacy International strongly criticise the biased involvement of the Office of the Information Commissioner and the then Department for Education and Skills who they claimed were “equally culpable”.

Going further:

Privacy International warned that the practice of finger printing for the purpose of library cards was in clear violation of the Human Rights Act and the Data Protection Act. “The law states that privacy invasion must be proportionate to the threat. A few lost library cards do not warrant mass finger printing” said Mr Davies.

My thanks to Rachel Mawhood and Jim Killock in pointing me to much of this information. I wanted to use this post to spark debate, so please leave a note in the comments if you have anything to add. Thanks.

UPDATE 2011-02-23: Pippa King has been in touch and introduced me to her site, http://www.pippaking.blogspot.com/

It looks like a good resource for concerned parents, including information about reconstructing fingerprints from templates, a feat that is supposedly impossible to do according to the following information.

UPDATE 2011-02-25: It seems I’m just confusing people with the title “RE: Cashless Catering System” (probably trying to be too clever), so I’ve changed it in favour of a new one. Sorry about that.

Letter from Crown Woods School, dated 11 February 2011.

Dear Parent/Carer

Cashless Catering System

The school is introducing a bio-metric system for pupil identification in the new College. The new system will be used to register pupils, for use of the library and for catering use.

The lunch system will mean that pupils will no longer have to bring money on a daily basis to pay for their lunch. They will be able to pay in advance for their meals by means of crediting their account on machines situated in the dining area.

The system uses the thumb print of the pupil and the software calculates a huge digital number from the image, and it is this number itself which is stored as a personal identification number. The actual thumb print image is NOT stored. When a student enters the school and uses the fingerprint scanner, the scanner recalculates the number and recognises the student. Such software is now being used to allow laptop users to secure their laptops – you will have seen this advertised on TV.

Students and parents can be reassured that this system has a very high level of security and that it is not possible to use the students PIN to reconstruct the original thumb print. The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner has scrutinised the technology and has stated “I would encourage you to employ the system using finger print images. It seems to me that the use of bio-metric identifiers allows users to verify their identity without the risk of intrusions into privacy …. I would certainly like to be able to point to it as an example of good practice”.

I hope that all students and parents will feel comfortable in helping us with the implementation. The software has been installed and we would hope to start the process of taking pupils’ thumb prints during the second half of this term ahead of our move into the new College. There are now an increasing number of schools using systems like this. I have attached a press release from the company together with an authorisation slip which should be returned to the school as soon as possible.

If you should have any queries please contact the School Office. Further information will be sent with details of how to use the catering system in the near future. Thank you for your help in this matter.

Yours sincerely

And from Cyclone Industries:

PRESS STATEMENT

LIVE  REGISTER

September 2006

The technology does not store actual images of finger or thumb prints but instead converts them into a 400 digit coded number. Mark McMorran, MD of Cyclone Industries the developer of Live Register, states: “This is not fingerprinting of the type associated with the police. The ability to record student attendance enhances the school’s efforts to ensure a safe and secure environment for all students and staff as well as providing extra flexibility in managing school timetables and freeing up more time for teaching. The storing of biometric information in the form of student photographs has long since been a practice by the majority of schools in the UK.”

See www.liveregister.co.uk

Posted on Tuesday 22 February 2011.

Posted in education, privacy | 28 comments »

28 Responses to “On Biometrics in Schools”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Evil Jim O'Donnell and Nick Smith, Rachel Mawhood. Rachel Mawhood said: RT @twitrnick: On biometrics in schools http://cot.ag/dNxBBL #biometric #privacy #security #digital [...]

  2. A lot of places have said that using fingerprint technology makes the lunch lines smaller. That is a load of crap. They introduced the fingerprint technology in my school and it now takes longer to get your food because instead of cueing up to get in the canteen, and then to get your food, and then to do your fingerprint to “pay” for your food, you ALSO have to put money on your account. In my school there is only one machine and everyone has to cue up to put money on. It’s ridiculous.

  3. Wa looks seem to be permanentl transforming.Bottega Veneta Bags Develop women peruse all tpes of items. Prett much all mankind has to carr out can be to solel capture a new clothes aren’t quite unique and then combine it with what she have alread got to make folks jealous for ou to magnitude which often just about anthing is usuall . You will not be individual, fakejared. A trendiest models are often the different Musical legac Unique Satchel that features an unparalleled epoch hair stling, an zip-top rating not to mention oung pupp harbess closure.
    レイバン隠すことはありません http://www.chromedm.com/new/rb-newpage-700.html

  4. 今だったらケイト・スペードがオススメですね。かなり人気なので、いつも品薄の状態です。大きめの形で、お仕事でもプライベートでもかけられるようなデザインが特徴です。他ブランドでも同様なフォルムのものはあるのですが、ケイト・スペードは幅広い年代の方に知名度があり、人気もあるブランド。お値段が手頃で、かつかわいいので、お客様にもオススメしやすいんです。売れ筋のカラーはブラウン。ブラックよりお顔が柔らかく見えるので、日本人の肌に馴染みやすいと思います」
    レイバン黄金の斑点 http://www.osteopathyinharrogate.co.uk/jprb/ray-ban-buy-mrj-1169.html

  5. ご褒美におすすめなのが、オープンを記念して限定発売される、グラデーションがきれいなマルチカラースネークと生き物のように動き出しそうなユニークなデザインのバッグ“クリーチャー”。手持ちにもクロスボディにもなるバッグが2型揃うほか、チェーンの付いた長財布(48000円)やジップウォレット(45000円)も。インパクトあるデザインは、バッグ主役のコーデにしたらステキそう!
    coach 時計 新作 http://www.kitchencarts360.com/Yttgel/Iljhcpp-20150819-Ws7e-1923.html

  6. ロマンチックな装いに、フラットシューズやベーシックアイテムなどを合わせることでカジュアルさを与えたコレクション。快適さと華やかさを併せもつコーディネートを提案した。「マイケル・コース」のコレクションラインより、アイコンバッグ「ミランダ」トートの新作として、「ミランダ・ノベルティ」が登場。6月初旬頃より、マイケル・コース ストアにて発売される。
    マイケルコース zozotown http://gss.co.ir/endmk/michaelkors-353-amer.html

  7. セールが始まりました。ボーナスも今年は増額になった企業も多かったようです。これを機にそろそろ新しいバックを新調しようかと考えている方もいるかもしれませんね。昔は、ブランドバックというとヨーロッパ系のブランドが多かったのですが、最近は、コーチなどアメリカ系ブランドも人気です。今回は、若い女性の間で人気の2つのバックブランドを調べてみました。値段も高級バックほど高くはなく、普段使いもできる都会的なデザインのバックです、この人気はどこまで続くのでしょうか気になる所を調べてみました。
    マイケルコース ファーストライン 事務所 http://www.bybtravel.co.uk/fual/michaelkors-146-sjid.html

  8. We are providing our professional DJ service for the cost
    effective starting rate of $500.00 for as much
    as 4 hours of musical home entertainment.

  9. The DJ pulls a card from the hat and the skater closest to the location wins
    a prize.

  10. Altering the frequency for lots of will certainly not open as long in the
    sale were two-frequency routers.

  11. Workplace Security Pointer: When in doubt, call your manager or supervisor for
    instruction, guidance, or training!

  12. ルイ・ヴィトン(LOUIS VUITTON)が、英国人アーティスト クリストファー ネメス(Christopher Nemeth)にオマージュを捧げた「2015-16年秋冬メンズコレクション」を展開する期間限定ストアを伊勢丹新宿店メンズ館にオープンする。期間は2015年8月26日(水)から9月15日(火)まで。
    ルイヴィトン ベルト 女性用 http://www.silverline-wells.co.uk/selfe/louisvuitton-557-zfod.html

  13. 興味深いのは、ブランドが買い戻し収集してきた有名デザイナーらの私物の品々。クリスチャン・ディオールやポール・ポワレが好んだトランクが、当時彼らがデザインした服と共に飾られる。ジャンヌ・ランバンが完成した服を顧客に届けるために特注したトランクも。展示の案内役は、入り口で渡されるモノグラム柄のケースに入ったスマホ。建物にかざすと、いにしえの工房風景や、楽しげな職人たちの姿が映し出される。そんな趣向も効果的だ。
    ルイヴィトン 時計 値段 http://www.greenassistant.eu/fecun/louisvuitton-1579-qznf.html

  14. The car will certainly not begin if a vehicle key is placed in the ignition that doesn’t have the right chip or no chip
    at all.

  15. この手のケースとしては、よく考えられています。iPhone 6のSIMトレイを内部に保管しておけたり、SIMピンがついているのもナイス。さて。SIMフリー版iPhoneを利用していると仮定して。スイッチを切り替え、再起動するだけで使えるのはiPhoneを正式に販売しているキャリアのSIMのみということになります。格安SIMへ切り替える場合、都度プロファイルを入れたり削除したりが必要となります。なお、au版iPhoneだと、SIMロック版でも海外でAT&TのSIMとプロファイル入れずに切り替えたりできます。
    グッチiphone6plusケースハート http://www.chekeateesto.com/wfen/iphonecase-1357-wtax.html

  16. This will certainly inform us that your jack is working
    and that your ethernet wire is functioning and that
    you have actually passed through the SafeConnect policy check.

  17. Locate thhe very best electrical experts for the wiring of swimming pools, changing swimming pool electrical
    wiring and to repair swimminng pool circuitry.

  18. Having decided to get web designing done, look for
    a suitable, experienced and well qualified web designer.

    That’s why the optimal website designer needs to have a marketing brain. There are different
    style sheets that can be scalable according to the situation and that are used in responsive design.

  19. I read this post fully about the resemblance of hottest and
    previous technologies, it’s awesome article.

  20. All Lone Celebrity Locksmith Texas services finished are guaranteed for both parts and effort.

  21. I am no longer certain the place you’re getting your info, but good
    topic. I needs to spend some time studying much more or working out more.
    Thanks for fantastic information I was on the lookout for this info for my mission.

  22. I was more than happy to uncover this great site.
    I wanted to thank you for ones time due to this fantastic read!!

    I definitely loved every bit of it and i also have you saved as a favorite to look at new
    stuff in your website.

  23. Taking part in twenty-one in the trustworthy on-line casinos can be
    a lot a lot more lucrative as comparedplaying in a land based Gambling establishment.

  24. So it all comes down to how the on the web casino
    organizations in USA are considering to tiptoe about the edge
    of legal definitions of gambling”.

  25. An HSA can shelter around $3000 (or maybe more) of one’s particular
    income from taxes, for every relative who is over a high-deductible insurance plan.

  26. Kardashian and West were full opposites in the manner team in the Givenchy
    drop ready-to-wear exhibit in Rome, France. 6 event during Art Miami Beach, where West was a featured audio

  27. Some genuinely quality blog posts on this site, saved to favorites .

  28. If you are going for best contents like myself, just
    pay a visit this site all the time because it presents
    quality contents, thanks

Leave a Reply