Thursday, December 20, 2007

School trips...?

Apparently "Fingerprinting helps pupils to be healthy eaters" states the "This is Cheshire" website. The school is so chuffed with the technology that they are "now looking at ways of using the fingertip system for other purposes for example school trips."

Education helps children to be healthy eaters. Taking fizzy drinks and chips off the menu helps children to be healthy eaters. These systems can cost up to £20,000+. Could this amount of money be used in school to improve education of healthy eating habits?

There is no mention of fingerprint, biometric, scanner or even cashless on Sandbach school's website. Taking childrens biometric data from them, I would have thought, warrents a mention at least.

But the idea of incorporating fingerprint scanners into a school trip(!) seems to be a biometric overkill of technology for technologies sake.

Given the appalling track record government establishments have on data protection, just salient data should be held by schools - not children's biometric data, which is non essential for a child's education.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Biometric industry see BECTA's guidance as a "green light"

Apparently industry welcomes "the findings of BECTA’s new report entitled Guidance on Biometrics in Schools , which highlighted the positive role biometric technology can play in reducing bullying, theft, truancy and costs in schools."

Really? Reducing bullying, theft and costs? There is no evidence to support this in the public domain.

One biometric vendor states BECTA’s report effectively provides the green light to continue the roll out of Biometric solutions in schools. The report makes a clear statement that fingerprints cannot be recreated from the string of numbers stored in the database..."

So whilst parents, human rights groups and concerned Members of Parliament are not happy about the BECTA guidance the industry have taken it as a "green light". The parent consultation touched on in the document is simply NOT happening and the notion that BECTA, the DCSF (DfES) and Labour Education Dept hold on to that fingerprints cannot be reconstructed is simply incorrect.

What are we actually paying these people for?

A simple Google of "reconstructing fingerprints" bring up papers that have been written on this or blogs (moi, listed no.3!) that can point civil servants and politicians in the general direction on this subject. It's not rocket science.

It is apparent that there is a concerning lack of research in BECTA's "guidance" which appears to have unsubstantiated claims and inaccurate statements in. Is it right for this to be the basis of an industry that is able to legally take biometric data from children as young a 4 without consulting parents?

The people that this report should have advantaged - our children in schools.

The people this reports advantages - biometric companies supplying to schools.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

UK world famous for sneakily fingerprinting chlidren in schools

It's nice to know that here in the UK we are world famous for something - schools fingerprinting children without parents knowledge.

The US and now Australia are hot on our heels though, but with only 2 companies here in the UK in 2005, to over 20 companies now selling biometric systems to schools (bought by our taxes) for food, books, registration, access, cash registers, vending machines - that's some growth in the market.

This is not about the security of pupils dinner money and stolen library books. It is simply about hard cash and profit for the biometric market by fingerprinting children in school as young as 4 without parents even being aware. Adults in the UK do not use biometric systems on the scale that it is used in schools.

The Dubai XPress has this article.

"The so-called "child-tracking" scheme has been lamented by parents who argue that school authorities should take prior permission and an "acceptance note" to fingerprint their child because the data collected from children under the age of 12 without parental consent contravenes the Data Protection Act 1998.

The Labour Government, who wants to go ahead with a national ID plan also faces a backlash from nearly 85 members of parliament who differ on this monitoring practice. Though the government rests its case on defending the method with the sole purpose of social security and thwarting child abuse, civil liberties groups call it an act of violation of privacy."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Canadian students object to biometic access - for gym access

The University of Northern British Columbia has installed biometric scanners "controlling access to the sports centre" [why?] 300 students have signed an online petition opposing it.

"Graduate student Gabrielle Wint-Rose wasn't sure why her gym needs such personal data, and said the invasiveness of the system should have been considered and students consulted before installing the system.

"It was a really shocking experience. It really wakes you up. You realize you walk into this facility and the only way to access is through finger scanning and all of sudden you're in this moment where you have no choice. What do you do?" said Wint-Rose on Wednesday.

Lindsay Stinson told CBC News she was upset she had to register her fingerprint and give personal information before she could work out at her university's new gym."

Proportionality in this must be considered. Who would want to monitor or possibly profile students exercise information? Does the university own the gym or do they lease it out to a private company? Where does the students data go?

Want to exercise = give personal biometric data? (would suggest boycotting gym and jogging instead, cheaper and non intrusive)

Students in Canada have (absolutely) more awareness than UK primary school pupils, 4 years old, that are now using fingerprint biometric systems here, and in the USA, without parental consent/knowledge.

With the Canadian students being older and having awareness of their personal data, they consequently raise valid privacy issues:

"Wint-Rose said she is concerned about what happens to the biometric information and who controls it.

"The northern sports centre has my information. I have no way of getting that back. I don't know how it's being collected, where it's being stored, who has access to this information," said Wint-Rose."

The following is a published paper by the Candian Information and Privacy Commissioner in March 2007:

Biometric Encryption: A Positive-Sum Technology that Achieves Strong Authentication, Security AND Privacy
Ann Cavoukian, Ph.D. Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario &
Alex Stoianov, Ph.D. Biometrics Scientist

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Finger food - German style"

This from a BBC article on Germans using biometric scanners for shopping, the closing paragraph reads:

"And it's not just supermarkets. At some German schools, students are now using biometrics to buy their school dinners. Finger food - German style."

Data Protection, Human Rights and security


If an individual's biometric information is compromised or stolen, that individual could no longer use those biometrics to prove his or her identity. Therefore, unless stringent security measures are put in place, the digital storage of biometric data could present a real security risk for facilitating identity theft.

The use of biometric systems must comply with the European Convention on Human Rights and the Data Protection Directive. The relevant legislation in the UK is the Human Rights Act and the Data Protection Act (DPA). Under the Human Rights Act each of us is entitled to respect in our private life, including our life at the workplace.

Under the DPA personal data is required to be processed fairly and for specific limited purposes. Two key principles come into play. First, the principle of proportionality, which means the interference with the private life of the individual must be justifiable by the benefits. Second, the principle of transparency - which means it must be clear how and why information is being used and it must not be used beyond this without prior agreement.

It is possible to deploy biometrics in ways that do not breach the DPA by - for example, justifying the processing on one of the grounds set out in the DPA. Organisations setting up biometric systems will need to be clear about the purpose of the system or scheme and consider carefully how data is collected, stored and accessed. Use of the biometric information will need to be proportionate to the benefits of the scheme

Biometrics enable Australian schools to monitor students "more closely"

In Australia, New South Wales, the children's biometric market is taking off. The all in one scheme monitors eating habits, movements around school and children's reading habits.

Rooty Hill High School has ordered 14 scanners, which are expected to be used to scan students as they enter the canteen, library and some classrooms.

The school's principal Christine Cawsey said it would allow the school to monitor the students more closely. [why?]

But president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Cameron Murphy said the scanning system was "intrusive" and suggested those using the system were branding students as lawbreakers.

"It's a clear breach of their privacy and it's treating school kids like they're criminals," Mr Murphy told The Daily Telegraph last night. "It's absolutely absurd.

"If the fingerprinting doesn't work, what's next? Putting ankle bracelets on students?"

Academy Attendance manufactures the electronic attendance systems, which are expected to be rolled out to at least half a dozen other schools next year.

The Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations said they were not consulted about the new technology.

"This is a step too far ... we would have liked to have expressed an opinion to ensure that all the checks and balances were there," federation president Di Giblin said.

Illinios schools legally need parental consent

No mention of parental consent in this article at Glenwood Middle School, Chatham, however the law in Illinois, as of August 2007, requires it.

"Scanners tested" at US high school

At Hagerty High School in Oviedo it's an "opt out" system as the Orlando Sentinal reports.

"...students will be required to take part unless their parents object.

Officials attempted to start the finger-scanning program at Hagerty earlier this month, but Superintendent Bill Vogel stopped it abruptly after several parents complained that they knew nothing about it and hadn't been given a chance to say no.

Some parents said their children had been threatened with punishment for refusing to have their fingers scanned initially to make a master image they would be scanned against every day. About a dozen parents already have refused to allow their children take part."

Bullying tactics have been used here in the UK as well.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Without much understanding of what ARCH (Action on Rights for Children) achieves it could be said that we were being branded as a little alarmist in this article, but perhaps justified given that the UK government has just "lost" 25 million children's/families data that it holds.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Reconstructing fingerprint images from templates

This is for everyone who thinks fingerprints cannot be reverse engineered from biometric systems, and especially for Jim Knight MP, the Labour Minister for Schools and Learners, who offered up the below incorrect information in a parliamentary debate in July this year with Greg Mulholland MP:

"Secondly, as I stated earlier, it is not possible to recreate a fingerprint using the numbers that are stored. The algorithm generates a unique number, producing no information of any use to identity thieves. I shall quote from a statement from the Information Commissioner’s Office—a thoroughly independent source—that says in the third paragraph:

“Full fingerprint images are not stored and cannot be generated (‘reverse engineered’) from the template.”

I hope that that is clear to all those listening, because it is an important reassurance on the points that the hon. Gentleman has made." ...absolutely crystal Jim.

1. Original fingerprint scan
2. Stored fingerprint template

3. Print reconstructed from template
Arun Ross, Member, IEEE, Jidnya Shah, and Anil K. Jain, Fellow, IEEE
April 2007
(as shown on the Leave Them Kids Alone site)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Australia start 'fingerprinting' students

As controversial biometric systems are being used in the UK and fingerprint scanners being put on hold in Orlando, scrapped in Massachusetts, Australia decides to implement fingerprint readers in their schools for registration, movement around school, canteen and library - all in one go.

However the Biometrics Institute in Australia have a voluntary Privacy Code, approved by the Australian Privacy Commissioner Karen Curtis, which applies to organisations that have agreed to be covered by the Code. The code came into effect September 2006. I wonder if schools and the vendors of such systems designed to be used in schools have signed up for the voluntary Privacy Code.

The Education Department has given Sydney Schools the all-clear to fingerprint their students.

The controversial move is voluntary, but only three parents have declined to allow their children to take part in a trial of the system at Rooty Hill High in Sydney's west.

School principal Christine Cawsey has told the Nine Network the system will be used to track children when they arrive at school, and as they visit the canteen, library and selected classrooms.

When they put their finger on the scanner, they will get a good morning greeting on the screen [arwh] and then they go to class.”

Saturday, November 10, 2007

USA news

Just thought I post a list of articles of what is happening in the USA with biometric scanners in schools.

When I started this I could initially keep on top of what was happening in the states but the technology is being rolled at such a rate in the USA, it was difficult to keep up with it! This is the past couple of months news:

Should schools fingerprint kids?

Fingerprinting kids for school lunch comments from the 29th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners was held in Montréal, Quebec.

School store checks out in high-tech ways Detriot News

Finger-scanning implemented at local elementary schools Colorado

Wallenpaupack Area to offer cashless lunch Pennsylvania

Finger Scanning System at Oregon School Raises Security Concerns

From The Statesman in Oregon:

Scanning students' fingers hits a nerve

Lunch-line thumb scan won't hurt privacy

Thumb scanners keep information private

Schools add a personal touch - Denver Post

Orlando school scanners put on hold

Whist schools are rolling out fingerprint systems in the UK, over in the USA it's also being brought in on a massive scale.

What is it with educationalists that makes them think it is acceptable to take a child's biometric data without even informing parents that they are going to do it. The same railroading tactics to finger scan the next generation are happening in the States as it is here in the UK.

If biometric technology is so great why not ask parents permission before their children's biometrics are taken and stored on a relatively insecure school computer?

Schools in Orlando didn't ask parents:

"Superintendent Bill Vogel said he had "indefinitely" delayed installation of finger scanners in lunchrooms at Hagerty High in Oviedo and Millennium Middle in Sanford. Officials say they jumped the gun by starting the scanning program without notifying parents or giving them a choice whether to have their children participate."

"There was not a letter sent out," Vogel said." - Why not? Here in the UK we have to sign permission slips for photographs taken, schools trips, food tasting, off site walks... why not biometric scans?

"I don't want to hear about this being a secure system or that it won't be used for anything else. No one can guarantee this," said Lisa Reese-Gordon in an e-mail complaint to Gov. Charlie Crist and school-district officials.

Look to recent law in Illinois, SB1702, which came into effect Aug this year states in section 5(B), page 4:

(5) A prohibition on the sale, lease, or other disclosure of biometric information to another person or entity, unless: (B) the disclosure is required by court order.

This could be law enforcement or government agencies.

Reese-Gordon, whose daughter attends Hagerty High, said there is"no educational purpose for the taking of fingerprints from children."

She's absolutely right. Biometric systems are purely used for administration purposes. Here in the UK children are the main proportion of the population using biometric systems.

If biometric systems are so time and cost effective why not use them routinely on the adult population? Why not in hospitals, civic centre, production lines, adult libraries, loyalties in stores, cash card authentication?

Why? Because adults question. In order for biometric systems to be efficient a large percentage take up of users would have to happen. But because we adults would question their use, who has access, how secure, etc. potential take up would be low and therefore not viable.

Children don't question, however parents would if we were asked - so we're not asked.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A bit of cancer with your chips?...but only with a fingerprint

Rantings of a New Yorker has had a few comments to make recently on the new fingerprint and RFID chipped world that our children experience in school:

RFID Chips Wanted in British School Children’s Uniforms
There’s a New Jacket in Town, and It’s Keeping Track of Your Children
Parents Upset at Scanning Children’s Fingerprints so They Can Eat Lunch

Ooooh and here's one that parents and pupils of Hungerhill School, Doncaster, UK might want to read - RFID Implants Linked to Cancer

Thanks Rantings and Slashdot too :)

Leeds pupils speak out

Over on Taz's blog the ongoing annoyance and concerns of pupils and parents at Morley High School, run by Education Leeds, continues, with much debate...

"i am a student at morley high school and now see why no letters were sent out, the ironic thing about this system is that in our school it dosent even work as expected because if multiple students use there fingerprints at the same time the orders get mixed up and so many people have to pay for things they havent even purchased ...and the head teacher is reported to be one of the best in the local area" mmm.... in some peoples views maybe not so "best"

Such systems can cost up to £25,000. When biometric systems do not educationally benefit children (depending from who's point of view), just think how better this 25K and the annual running costs of the system could be better spent on our children's education.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Outraged parents start their own blog

A while ago I posted Leeds pupils bullied to give up their prints - here is the email in full on the Leave Them Kids Alone site. It makes for uncomfortable reading.

So now the parents whose children go to Morley High School in Leeds have started their own blog,

Here they voice their concerns on how the new biometric fingerprint system has been implemented allegedly leaving pupils who refuse to be fingerprinted without hot meals and children who don't use the canteen being photographed fingerprinted - read the blog for more.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Technology for technologys sake

Okay, biometrics for vending machines, meals, entry and exit at school, libraries (and in the states school transport) now a school in Ilkley, Leeds, has a fingerprint cash paying in machine, for childrens school trips, that has set the school back £2500.

"The organisation of trips at Ilkley Grammar involves a turnover of £250,000 a year, mostly collected in £10 or £15 instalments. It means close to 20,000 transactions a year."

A quarter of a million pounds of parents money on school trips each year for around 1500 students (works out around £170 per pupil per year) suggests that Ilkely is a fairly affluent area and that the need for parents to pay in such small amounts could be managed better by the school.

"Head teacher Gillian James said in an explanatory letter to parents that the system would store a number based on a fingerprint reading. No fingerprint images would be stored". - Not exactly true, what is stored is an fingerprint algorithmic image that our UK police can access and use without parents and pupils knowledge (Deputy Information Commissioner Q50 & Q51).

I wish teachers would stop spouting the vendors and the governments "It's not a fingerprint...." speil and educate themselves.

Apparently - "The Information Commissioner and the Department of Education and Skills had said they had no concerns.", however these people do:

Kim Cameron, Microsoft's Identity Architect
Andrew Clymer, senior identity management security expert (more than 8 years at Cisco Systems, working with Visa, Fidelity, Merrill Lynch, etc - providing them with a secure network environment)
Paul Squires, Identity Solutions Architect at Enline plc
Bruce Schneier, a respected US writer and lecturer on issues surrounding security and privacy, who has testified before Congress and authored eight books and dozens of articles and academic papers.
Ralf Bendrath, privacy, security and internet researcher
Dr Sandra Leaton Gray, Director of Studies, Sociology of Education, Homerton College, Cambridge
Professor Emerita Leone Burton, University of Birmingham, visiting research fellow, Cambridge University
Patricia Deubel, PhD, adjunct faculty member in the graduate School of Education at Capella University
Dr James Atherton,
Jon Crowcroft, Marconi Professor of Communications Systems, University of Cambridge
Terrance Boult, University of Colorado
Eugene Schultz, Ph.D., CISM, CISSP, CTO of High Tower Software
David French , 30 plus years in IT, Wellington NZ
Brian Drury, IT security consultant, UK
Brian Honan, independent security consultant based in Dublin, Ireland
Dom Devitto, information Security consultant, UK
Rufus Evison MA (Cantab), senior IT consultant and company director, UK
An unnamed Police Fingerprint Officer (15+ years' experience)
Stephen Groesz, a partner with the law firm Bindmans
The Austrian Supreme Court
The States of Michigan, Illinios and Iowa (so far, others are likely to follow)
Tony Delaney, The Assistant Irish Data Protection Commissioner
Roderick Woo, Justice of the Peace at the Hong Kong Office of the Privacy Commissioner
George Radwanski, Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Ann Cavoukian, The Privacy Commissioner of Ontario
Damian Green MP, Conservative Home Affairs spokesman
The Rt Hon David Davis MP, Conservative Shadow Home Secretary
Nick Gibb MP, Conservative Shadow Minister For Schools
Baroness Carnegy, Conservative
Sarah Teather MP, LibDem Shadow Education Secretary
Greg Mulholland MP, Lib Dem Schools spokesperson
Baroness Walmsley, LibDem
Baroness Howe, Crossbencher
83 other MPs from all parties who have signed Early Day Motion 686 (frontbenchers do not usually sign EDMs)
More than 1500 parents who voted last summer in an online poll against kiddyprinting without parental consent. 93% opposed fingerprinting without consent.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Parents voice their concerns

The Daily Mail reports today on growing concerns amongst parents about the practise of "fingerprinting" children in schools for food, books and access.

One parent has already taken legal advice after his child's school took biometric fingerprint from his child without even informing him.

"...a Suffolk filmmaker called Jonathan Adams, are considering legal action to stop schools in their tracks. "Litigation may be the only way forward," he says. "We fear they are in breach of the Human Rights Act, the Data Protection Act and the European Commission laws that safeguard the child.

"We have sought initial advice from lawyers."

This from David Clouter of Leave Them Kids Alone, (which as a parent I completely agree with),
"Schools send out consent slips for just about anything, from allowing popcorn during cinema trips to whether we can take pictures of the school play at the end of term," Mr Clouter says, "but they didn't plan to ask the parents about taking their children's fingerprints."

Fiona Elliot a parent in Doncaster, who was quoted in the article, had this letter from her children's primary schools which stated: " We have no legal requirement to ask for permission [from parents before 'fingerprinting' children] as we will not be breaching any data protection regulations"

...and the next sentance is quite unbelievable, "and also letters of permission are not always returned" (!)

I agree with Fiona, "If some choose to write this off as alarmist, she doesn't care", neither do I.

Children's biometric data secure for their lifetime?

Over on Andy Clymer's blog he raises concerns of how children's biometric in schools may not be secure, even for their time at school.

"...a responsible biometric manufacture would secure biometric data as best they can today, but once the software has been deployed if that data is to be truly secure it needs have sufficient physical security measures in place provided by the owner to ensure that in the future the encryption based solution still has adequate merits, the moment you do not have complete ownership of the data all bets are off...and by their own admission the biometric provider in this case said their guarantees is for appx. 10 years, in the case of biometric data for kids that data is sensitive for 60-70 years."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Building Schools for the Future bidder builds biometric technology into schools

The Sunday Heralds reports that after the palm vein scanner was trailed in a Scottish primary school last October, Amey who introduced the vein scanner, developed by Yarg Biometrics and Fujutsu, have plans to introduce this in another 11 schools for lunch lines and possible entry into schools:

"The private firm Amey is now presenting biometric systems as part of its pitch for all new school building contracts. The company was keen to assure parents in Renfrewshire, where 11 more schools are set to adopt palm readers, that the technology was safe and data could not be stolen or misused."

Vein scanning is mildly more acceptable than fingerprint scanners, as a vein print cannot be casually left at a location as a fingerprint can and so implicate you at a certain location (other than at a vein scanner). But Amey's claim that the technology is safe and data cannot be misused or stolen is a very grand claim, as these children's biometric data needs to be secure for the rest of their life time - decades... or at the very least for the life time of a child's schooling from 4-18 years old, until 2021.

How can parents, governors and pupils be consulted on this if building these biometric systems into schools are done at local government contract level? And "opt out" alternatives should be provided.

The government (BECTA) guidelines state that, "...schools should normally involve pupils and parents in their decisions to use biometric technologies as is the case with other decisions made during the school life of children ." page 7 of the "BECTA guidance on biometric technologies in schools"

- this Building Schools for the Future(BSF)/Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scenario seems to blatantly override the recent government guidelines here, unless there is a consultation process underway with parents and pupils that hasn't been reported in this case.

If their is no "involvement" with parents and pupils, there is no consequence for the companies/schools installing it. Well, hey ho, that's non legal/statutory guidance for you.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Biometric systems help visibly reduce wrinkle lines and bullying

At Viewlands Primary, Perth, Scotland, a fingerprint scanning system is trialled for school lunches:

...a spokesman for the council insisted fingerprinting youngsters is safe and has helped reduce bullying. - the council spokesperson shows no evidence to back this statement up. In fact there is no evidence whatsoever that proves that using biometric systems in schools reduces bullying.

The spokesman claimed 90 per cent of parents had given permission for their children to take part and it was impossible for the system to be accessed by "unauthorised" users.

"Impossible"?... a fantastical claim to be made in this day and age when peoples identities are being stolen from cash point machines, NHS records stolen - re-surfacing on e-bay and banks not disposing of customers details properly.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Police able to access primary school fingerprint system

The Highland News reports that Drakies Primary School in Inverness, Scotland, has spent £1000 on fingerprint scanners for their school library.

The below comment is, as far as I know, the first mention in the media of police having accessing school fingerprint databases. Police can use children's biometric databases in England and Wales without informing parents. It does state here that the police have to get permission from the school and parents, Scottish law is different to English and Welsh law so this may well be the case in Scotland - but not in England and Wales (see questions 50 and 51).

... a spokeswoman for the National Policing Improvement Agency said: "If the police have reason to suspect a child has committed a crime then as part of their investigation with permission of the school and the parent, the police can request access to the data if they have reason to believe it will help them with their investigation."

There is no relevance to the argument that fingerprints aren't stored - a biometric identifier is stored which carries the exact same implications as if a fingerprint was stored.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Leeds pupils bullied to give up their prints

A parent from Leeds forwarded both myself and Leave Them Kids Alone details of how their 11 year old son's new school dealt with her concerns over a biometric lunch system, installed over the summer break.

The vendors of the lunch system treated the children without respect, the schools evaded questions, she got told by the bio-company "It is the law, it was passed in parliament in June this year. If you don't believe me, I can prove it" (what?!) and some courageous pupils refused on human rights grounds - good for them!

The email in full is on the LTKA [link temporarily removed] site, but here are some parts of the email that, quite frankly, makes my blood boil in the way the children were treated - but yet an admirable response in their stanse:

(parent) ...I had a telephone conversation with a very bright young girl who also attends this school. She refused to have her fingerprints taken, as did her friend. (Their human rights decision - she said) They have also heard of a few others who have refused too. They didn't agree with the way that the system had been sneaked into school and with no parental consent form. They were very scared, yet refused to cooperate. They were then threatened with the isolation unit, no school trips and wouldn't be allowed to enter into the school without the prints.

But.... my point is, they still refused! The girl said that many of her friends were very scared, they didn't like it and didn't want to have it done, yet they were still bullied into it (........ including her younger brother)

She said that they rounded up the kids like sheep for the slaughter, doing all the youngest first. The teenagers who are in their final year of school are going to be fingerprinted tomorrow. (14/09/2007) She also mentioned that apart from the science teachers, all the other teachers were completely in the dark about what was going on.

Courageous kids eh? bless em :-)

And this cashless system is supposed to 'prevent 'bullying eh?... the schools implementation of this scheme, in itself, raises some very serious questions!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Schools right to fingerprint without consent?

Chris Woodhead, who was the Chief Inspector of Schools in England from 1994 until 2000, answers this parent query on the Times Online website.
My 15-year-old son’s school recently informed parents that it would be introducing technology which uses pupils’ fingerprints to pay for school dinners. The school say they want to discourage children from bringing cash into school. How is that schools can keep this sort of personal information that could lead to identity theft? Where do parents stand in demanding their child’s fingerprints be removed from the system? Fiona Byrne, Leicestershire

The school has no right to fingerprint your son without your consent. You can therefore demand that his fingerprints are removed from its records.

I worry that our children will come to assume that those in authority have a right to demand any information they desire.

Although schools may not have the right morally, schools, with the support of the Labour Government Education Dept, are being told that they are operating within the law which enables tham to 'fingerprint' children without informing parents - until this assumed right is tested in a court of law.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Superglueing fingers

A friend sent me this from Klei's site.

India installing fingerprint systems in 40,000 schools

We think we've got it bad in in Britain and the USA with using biometrics with children in schools, at a completely disproportionate rate to the adult population that use biometric systems. (Perhaps because adults have a grasp of their rights maybe?)

But move over UK and USA - enter India. 40,000 schools are to be using such biometric fingerprint systems within 3 years. That's some contract.

With there only being around 25,000 schools in the UK this gives a sense of perspective to the speed and growth of the biometric industry going into schools in India.

Unsurprisingly these fingerprint systems are being foisted on "one of the most backward districts of Gujarat having predominant tribal population and low literacy" - so no complaints there then!

In this particular setting I can partly understand why biometric technology is being deployed here, but I would hope that, as a tool, it is not abused as well, as the people that are using this are clearly some of the worlds most vunerable.

"The pilot project covers 680 primary schools, 70 Cluster Resource Centres (CRCs) and 4 Block Resources Centres (BRCs) in Narmada district, one of the most backward districts of Gujarat having predominant tribal population and low literacy. It will cover around 2,508 teachers and 76,000 students.

The expanded project is expected to cover around 40,000 schools, which are to be covered, in a phased manner, in the coming 2-3 years."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oh no....

Clayton school district in Missouri, are, next month, going to install fingerprint scanners in school lunch lines.

Oh dear...

"It's not a fingerprint," said Howie O'Neil, departing business administrator and board secretary.

"It's a mathematical algorithm based on a of couple points on the fingers and this cannot be traced by anybody or passed on."


Friday, September 07, 2007

New US legislation halts school fingerprint technology

This from the Chicago Tribune:

Shortly after rolling out a new lunch program that allows pupils to pay for hot meals with a scan of their fingerprint, Wilmette school officials put the system on hold after learning that a new Illinois law limits the use of biometric information to protect children's privacy.

Illinois General Assembly SB1702, specifically dealing with school biometric databases, came into effect on the 1st August this year.

Adam Denenberg, the school district's director of technology and media is quoted in the article saying, " fingerprints are stored or could be obtained by police."

However, a child's biometric fingerprint algorithm, stored on a school database, can be accessed by police, as SB1702, section 5(B), on page 4, details:

(5) A prohibition on the sale, lease, or other disclosure of biometric information to another person or entity, unless:

(B) the disclosure is required by court order.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Schools dinners drop by 250,000

The number of secondary school children taking school meals has dropped by 250,000 in the past two years.

The Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA) National School Meals Survey have some interesting statistics:

In Primary Schools the number eligible for free school meals has dropped from 17.3% to 15.9% and the uptake from 14.2% to 13.1%.

In Secondary Schools the number eligible for free school meals dropped from 14.4% to 13.1% and the uptake from 10.6% to 9.6%.

The service is under immense pressure and already being seen by many private contractors as a non-viable operation.

LACA’s concern is that this may well be the case too for public sector caterers. It is not inconceivable that local authorities would consider abandoning the [food] service as budgets are unable to sustain the costs involved with the introduction of the New School Food Standards, particularly if Secondary students can continue to obtain, on the way to school and in break times, the food and drink items banned in school.

Why on earth would a school buy a biometric cashless system when clearly this is an area NOT to invest in at present, but manufacturers claims that such systems boost school meal uptake fly in the face of these recent LACA figures.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Fingerprinting in Australian schools

Fingerprint biometrics in Australian schools is coming and civil liberties groups aren't happy about it.

"Australian Education Union state secretary Mary Bluett said the swipe card technology was too expensive for most state schools, but advances in fingerprint technology meant it would eventually be introduced throughout secondary schools.

The push for biometric security measures comes from a school photography company, Academy Attendance Systems which is offering technology that scans a student's thumbprint..." I bet it is!

Civil Liberties Council President Cameron Murphy says fingerprint logging is also a concern.

“It’s just not appropriate to be forcing school students to hand over their fingerprints so that they can be logged and on their way in and way out but also kept on a database for the rest of their life,” he said.

Monday, August 27, 2007

USA installs school scanners over summer break

States in the USA have taken advantage of the summer break by installing fingerprint biometric scanner for lunches, in Ohio, Florida, West Virginia and Maryland.

Kathy Thomas, at Gilpin Manor Elementary school, said in this article some parents objections to the new system might be based on inaccurate information.

Mmm...based on her view I'd say she is the one inaccurately educated about the fingerprint systems. See these international computer expert's views on using school biometric systems.

She says, “The new system uses a student’s fingerprint to create a corresponding identification number based on certain unique points of the print,” she said. “But it’s not actually recording the fingerprint itself, and we’re not storing anyone’s fingerprints in our computers.” - Yes you are. It's a digital biometric identifier of a child's fingerprint, not noseprint, earprint or footprint - it's a fingerprint - law enforcement and governments use similiar biometric systems because it stores a "fingerprint".

This picture accompanied the article, let's see... there clearly is a computer with an image of a fingerprint on it, the print is recorded initially and a biometric identifier of the child's fingerprint is stored that is absolutely unique to that child and can be used in law i.e, Police can access school biometric databases if they wish.

Kathy Thomas then goes on to say.. "School officials, for instance, cannot provide law enforcement with a copy of a student’s fingerprint from the system because no actual prints are recorded." Wrong - I don't know about US law but certainly in the UK police are able to access a school biometric database, if they believe it will help solve a crime, without parental knowledge.

With regard to the USA, interestingly CSI NY , the tv series, (I think series 3 episode 10 entitled "Sweet 16") ran a sub-plot where a teenage girl was joyriding in a car and non of the fingerprints in the car were on the police database (AFIS). The school had a biometric database and the CSI squad ran it through the school database to check the print and found the joyrider via that.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Child fingerprinted without parents knowledge

As Gloucester County Council decide whether or not to endorse the recent governments advice to schools on biometric systems one family in Gloucester finds out that their son was fingerprinted without their knowledge, for library use.

The parents are rightly furious.

Roberta Smart said: "They should certainly have asked before doing anything like this. I would have refused. Systems can also be hacked into, and identity fraud takes place often. Will our children be next?

These are youngsters and for them this is just the way things are done. That is why parents, who know it isn't, need to take a stand." Absolutely!

Certain comments on the 'this is' website have been made by people uneducated on this issue, ignorant of the potential risks with these systems - however this is encouragingly balanced with informed comments.

Ignorance is driven by this practice of schools taking children's biometrics without properly consulting parents.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

ACLU voices concerns as Indiana schools use fingerprint scanners

The Herald Argos in Indiana, USA, have reported that biometric systems are to be implemented in the La Porte and New Prairie school corporations.

"Some parents were unaware of the fingerprint scan until contacted by The La Porte County Herald-Argus Tuesday. Parents at Olive have not received detailed information on the technology.

La Porte spent between $100 and $200 each for 15 scanners and pays $5,738 each year for software licensing."

Parents are concerned about the cost and ACLU have voiced their concerns regarding children surrendering their privacy at a younger and younger age. A CLU and parents across states in the USA, have helped convince schools officials in Boulder, Colo, and in Taunton, Mass. to abandon plans to use biometrics in schools.

Parents, such as Joy Robinson-Van Gilder and Patti Crossman, have been paramount in these changes of school board attitudes towards the casual biometric fingerprinting of children in schools.

"One person leading the campaign against this technology in Boulder was Joe Pezzillo, 38, a computer software developer involved with the technology.

He said that just because the finger isn’t dipped in ink and placed on paper doesn’t change the fact that it is a fingerprint.

“The fact of the matter is there is a unique identifier to identify your child whether it is stored as a number or a picture of the fingerprint,”

“You cannot change a fingerprint. It will uniquely identify the child for the rest of their life.”

Monday, August 13, 2007

Gloucestershire County Council rethinking recent UK Government guidelines

Despite the UK Government recently issuing guidance for schools using biometric systems Gloucestershire County Council are deciding whether to issue their own guidance to schools in their area.

With a total of 8,400 children already fingerprinted in the Gloucestershire area, some just four years old, members of all political parties in the county council have created draft guidelines to help schools decide whether to use fingerprinting.

This article reports that Gloucestershire County Council, "...strongly recommends schools should consider the implications of the biometric data before making a decision.Liberal democrats at Gloucestershire County Council have welcomed the draft guidelines, but say they should go further.

Lib Deb leader councillor Jeremy Hilton, said:

"Using biometric technology in schools introduces a number of serious and unnecessary risks.

"Personally I would encourage schools not to introduce fingerprinting."

Jackie Hall, lead cabinet member for children and young people, will decide whether to endorse the [government] guidelines in September.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dubai to issue guidance to schools

From - "Educationists and pupils in Dubai feel that schools should not be allowed to fingerprint students even though it would make some tasks much easier in the educational institutions. Senior officials are expected to issue guidelines to install fingerprint scanners and collect biometric data from children as young as five."

The guidance is to be issued as "they were responding to a report from the UK that schools are seeking government's permission to fingerprint pupils"

Laws should determine that, not a government. Sadly our UK laws are woefully out of date where this technology is concerned and very open ended.

Schools seemingly got the go ahead here in the UK when the non-statutory guidance was issued by the government last month, via BECTA's website.

How many children?

Trying to get a figure of children with their biometric fingerprints on school databases is hard to estimate as the data on percentages varies according to statements from LEA's, manufacturers and Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

But from this article Labour councillor Denise Headley uncovered 15 of Edmonton Green borough’s 92 schools using the "controversial biometric identification system".

In the same article Andy O'Brien, Managing Director of Micro Librarian Systems, states that 30% of schools use the fingerprint scanner. Is that Edmonton Green schools or just all schools? - because the figure from Edmonton Green is not 30%.

Working on 23%, which is just about in between the above figures and is also the percentage of schools using biometric databases in Suffolk from a recent FOI request, the following figures apply:

UK school population: Approx 9.5 million children.

England: 8,200,000
Wales: 494,181
Scotland: 743,561

23% of the total is 2,170,680 children.

So I think it it fair to say that over 2 million UK children have their biometric data on schools PC's. Maybe more.

I'd be very surprised if there are 2 million+ consenting parents to this.

Resources: link broken, see

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Leave Them Kids Alone statement

David Clouter of Leave Them Kids Alone has posted via the OurKingdom blog:

"School systems store fingerprint templates, the lifelong key to a person’s identity. Within 10 years these will be used to authenticate bank accounts and passports. World-renowned security experts argue that schools cannot possibly hold these securely and Microsoft identity Architect Kim Cameron has said that “It is absolutely premature to begin using conventional biometrics in schools”."

The Leave Them Kids Alone website is a great resource for parents to check out what is happening in the UK, USA or internationally regarding schools digitally fingerprinting children with or without parental consent or knowledge.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Schools 'soft targets' for ICT theives

According to this article, figures published by the Metropolitan Police (Crime in London schools 2000-2004) show the number of burglaries at schools at 7,500 for the period.

"The problem, in part, is that schools are typically ‘soft’ targets. The problem is being further compounded, with respect to burglaries, as the government’s drive to put more computers, projectors, whiteboards and general ICT technology in schools, makes them very desirable targets for thieves."

With these staggeringly high theft figures for schools, this is a point to consider if your child is going to be using a school biometric system.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Reverse-engineering digital fingerprints

One important point, that has been reiterated time and time again by biometric vendors, Jim Knight and the ICO, is that the biometric systems in schools cannot reverse-engineer a fingerprint.

This does not seem to be the case according to Kim Cameron's recent weblog, Architect of Identity and Access in the Connected Systems Division at Microsoft, entitled "Paper argues biometric templates can be reversed". It shows that reverse-engineering a digital fingerprint may just be possible. He cites this paper "Can images be generated from biometric templates" by Andy Adler, University of Ottawa, 2003.

Also see these Research discussions at West Virginia University from 2005 "We show that minutiae information can reveal substantial details such as the orientation field and the class of the associated fingerprint that can potentially be used to reconstruct the original fingerprint image."

Both of these papers are not too recent and since then one would presume that the technologies in this field have advanced.

However, even thought the possible reconstruction of a fingerprint seems relevant to the argument of biometric technology in schools, ownership and possible 'loss' of ones digital fingerprint is still very relevant... who has access to it, the systems it is on, how it can be used (or abused). These are the points that should be seriously considered by children (and parents) as they unwittingly give up their biometric data for systems in schools which are non essential for purchasing food or accessing library books.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

UK non statutory guidelines issued....

Non statutory (non legally binding) guidelines were issued yesterday by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, BECTA, regarding biometrics in schools, nicely coinciding with the House of Commons Adjournment debate on the subject.

'Guidence on the use of Biometric systems in schools' from BECTA and 'The use of biometrics in schools' came from the Information Commissioner's office, ICO, yesterday.

Balanced points of view are required to make informed judgements.

From the BECTA advice: 6 ...Schools should also reassure parents and pupils that they will not pass the data on to any third parties.

But are parents and pupils aware that the UK Police can access school biometric databases without parental permission if a crime can be solved? See Q50 and Q51 and subsequent answers from David Smith, the Deputy Information Commissioner, at the House of Common Home Affairs Committee "A SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY?" (May 2007).

Police "fingerprint" databases are not just ink fingerprints on sheets of paper with people peering at them with magnifying glasses when a crime needs to be solved - Police now use algorithmic fingerprint databases (Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems - AFIS) as detailed in the above mentioned ICO document third paragraph, just like the ones used in schools. These algorithms, via M1, can be interchangeable between differing systems.

Quote from the front page of the ICO advice: "Fingerprints are not essential to the applications but unlike swipe cards they cannot be lost"

This from a primary school using thumb scans (top right, second column): "The only issues we’ve had have been caused by us changing our hardware and a burglary when our main computer was stolen. [The biometric provider] helped us to resolve them all," (Perhaps biometric data was 'lost' here?)

Non legal advice - nothing resolved.

House of Commons Adjournment Debate

There was a House of Commons Adjournment debate Monday 23rd July with Greg Mulholland, Lib Dem Shadow Education Spokesperson, leading the debate and Jim Knight, Labour Minister from the Department of children, schools and families, answering.

At long last debate time in parliament has been given over to the taking of children's biometric data without parental consent.

The debate can been seen here, it is the last item to be debated and can be found at 06.35.25 on the slider.

Luckily for Jim Knight, in order to answer Greg Mulhollands points and not to loose face, he had to have some advice from the ICO and BECTA - well and what do you know... after nearly a year of waiting for advice, the long awaited guidance from BECTA and the ICO just happened to be issued today.

Phew that was lucky for Jim Knight - what were the odds against that then?!!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Illinios Act, USA, HB 1559

Act HB 1559 in Illinios, USA, regarding biometrics in schools should take effect 1st August 2007.
(If the above link is broken for HB1559 scroll down on the right column to 'Legal/Law' on this blog for the link)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Irish workers refuse to use biometric system

Workers at The Abbey Theatre in Dublin have refused to give up their personal biometric data for a biometric system that "concerns the health and safety of the Abbey’s 100 full-time staff working in the buildings at various times across the course of the morning, day and night."

How can giving up your personal biometric data improve your health and safety working in a theatre? The biometric system is in it's first phase with the second phase being rolled out monitoring time and attendance according to the Sunday Business Post.

If adult workers are not happy with using such systems - why is it used with children without gaining parental permission or even letting parents know?

There are obviously concerns amongst the adult population about the uses of such technology and the level of personal data we as adults wish to give up, yet as a society we are creating a "do as I say not as I do" situation with biometrics in schools and children's privacy rights.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Back on the job!

Not posted for a while, the recent flooding has disrupted our city with a 5th of all homes affected, schools shut, council services not operating to the full, events cancelled then rescheduled... we had 4 inches of water come through out front room ceiling, came in through the outside brick pointing as the guttering didn't cope with the monsoon like rain, buckets and tarpaulin saved the day -
but we got off lightly in comparison to some.

So... back to work!

Schools using biometrics for lunch recently, Kirkley High School in Lowestoft, Norfolk:
“The cashless catering system gives us the ability to influence where they eat and what they eat." said Headteacher, John Clinton

Also Bristol City academy is to scan students' fingerprints to allow them to get their lunch. The £20,000 (!) scheme will be launched at the City Academy - the first to be built in the city - from September.

One parent, Clare Stephenson stated,"I am staggered that no consultation has been made with parents about this and it is being pushed through in time for the new school term,"

Monday, June 18, 2007

Schools have the right to collect biometric data in the UK with out parents permission

Independent Sunday 17th June

"Ministers will issue guidance telling schools they have the right to collect biometric data and install fingerprint scanners."

"It is understood that schools will not have to gain written permission from each parent before their child's fingerprints are taken."

"Schools will be able to place fingerprint scanners at the entrances to classrooms, the school gates and even in cafeterias."

Quite unbelievable. Doesn't the government take world leading experts seriously on this matter? Obviously not. This 'guidance' should make interesting reading when/if it is ever issued.

See the England Expects blog for more comment on this.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Biometric guidance for schools due before end June

This from correspondence received today from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO):

"I believe the DfES are expecting the Becta guidance to be published before the end of June.

The ICO will be issuing its own statement on the issue at the same time. This will express fairly briefly our view on the use of fingerprint templates in schools."