Biometrics in schools

Biometrics in schools

Starting in the early 2000s, thousands of schools throughout the world have begun to establish biometric systems. A number of reasons are given for such practices, including struggling against truancy, replacing library cards or meal cards by fingerprinting systems, etc. [ Opponents of school biometrics] have lifted up privacy concerns against the creation of databases which would progressively include the entire population.

Fingerprinting in schools over the world

Many schools have implemented fingerprint locks or registered children's fingerprints. In the UK biometrics in schools have been largely used for library book issue, but are increasingly being used for cashless catering systems, enabling parents to deposit money into students catering accounts, to be debited by a child's biometric fingerscan at the point of sale. Biometric technology for registration is also used in the UK. In the USA biometrics systems are used primarily for catering, as mentioned above, with library and registration biometrics in use also.

Fingerprint locking systems happened in the United Kingdom (fingerprint lock in the Holland Park School in London [ [ Empreintes digitales pour les enfants d'une école de Londres] fr icon ] , databases, etc., in Belgium (école Marie-José in Liège [ [ Empreintes digitales pour sécuriser l'école ?] fr icon ] [ [ Le lecteur d'empreintes dans les écoles crée la polémique] , 7 Sur 7, February 5, 2007 fr icon] ), in France, in Italy, etc. The NGO Privacy International has alerted that tens of thousands of UK school children were being fingerprinted by schools, often without the knowledge or consent of their parents [ Fingerprinting of UK school kids causes outcry] , "The Register", July 22, 2002 en icon ] . In 2002, the supplier Micro Librarian Systems, which use a technology similar to US prisons and German military, estimated that 350 schools through-out Britain were using such systems, to replace library cards . In 2007, it is estimated that 3,500 schools (ten times more) are using such systems [ Child fingerprint plan considered] , "BBC", March 4, 2007 en icon ] . Under the Data Protection Act (DPA), schools in the UK do not have to ask parental consent for such practices. Parents opposed to such practices may only bring individual complaints against schools [ [ Schools can fingerprint children without parental consent] , "The Register", September 7, 2006 en icon ] .

The alleged use of taking children's fingerprints is to struggle against school skipping or/and to replace library cards or money for meals by fingerprint locks. In Belgium, this practice gave rise to a question in Parliament on February 6, 2007 by Michel de La Motte (Humanist Democratic Centre) to the Education Minister Marie Arena, who replied that they were legal insofar as the school did not use them for external purposes nor to survey the private life of children [ [ Prises d'empreintes digitales dans un établissement scolaire] , Question d'actualité à la Ministre-Présidente en charge de l'Enseignement obligatoire et de Promotion sociale fr icon ] . Such practices have also been used in France (Angers, Carqueiranne college in the Var — the latter won the Big Brother Award of 2005 for its hand geometry system, etc.) although the CNIL, official organism in charge of protection of privacy, has declared them "disproportionate." [,39040745,39122509,00.htm Quand la biométrie s'installe dans les cantines au nez et à la barbe de la Cnil] , "Zdnet", September 9, 2003 fr icon ] . The CNIL, however, declared in 2002 hand geometry systems to be acceptable.

Early Applications

The first reported use of biometric systems in U.S. schools was at Minnesota's Eagan High School in September 1999.cite news|url=|publisher= [ eSchool News] |title=This Minnesota high school gives fingerprint scanning a whorl|date=2000-09-01|accessdate=2006-11-20] Eagan High School, a testing ground for education technology since it opened, allowed willing students to use fingerprint readers to speed up the borrowing of library books.

Penn Cambria School District in Cresson, PA was another earlier user of biometric technology. [ [ Fingerprints Pay For School Lunch] ] In 2000, Food Service Solutions, a local food service company, designed and implemented a system where students bought lunch with just a fingerprint. The [ American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)] stated that this"could hasten the end of privacy rights" [ [ Fingerprints Pay For School Lunch, Digitized ID Program Used In 3 Pennsylvania School Districts - CBS News ] ]

Biometric systems were first used in schools in the UK in 2001. Use of this technology in schools is now widespread, though there are currently no official figures for how many schools employ the technology. [Knight, J. [ Parliamentary Written Answer 110750] , Hansard, January 29, 2007.]


Biometric technologies in schools are used to borrow library books, for cashless canteen systems, vending machines, class attendance and payments into schools. Biometric technologies for home/school bus journeys are also under development.

* Grossman, W. " [,,1742091,00.html Is school fingerprinting out of bounds?] ", The Guardian, March 30, 2006.

Types of biometric in use

Primarily the type of biometric employed is a fingerprint scan or thumbprint scan but vein and iris scanning systems are also in use.
* [ Biometrics in Schools, Colleges and other Educational Institutions] , Data Protection Commissioner, 2007

* [ Vein scanning in a primary school for food, in Scotland] ,, October 2006

Ages of children using biometrics

Biometric systems can be used by children as young as three years old.

* Devlin, K. " [;jsessionid=MYWJOJM0RTD2RQFIQMGCFGGAVCBQUIV0?xml=/news/2006/09/23/nkids323.xml Nursery children to be fingerprinted] ", The Daily Telegraph, September 23, 2006.

Countries currently using biometrics in schools

The two countries at the forefront employing biometric technology in schools are the UK and the USA. Biometric systems are also used in some schools in Belgium and Sweden but were withdrawn from China and Hong Kong schools due to privacy concerns. It was reported in August 2007 that Dubai are soon due to [ issue guidance] to schools.
* China: Ballard, M. " [ Halt to school fingerprinting] ", The Register, November 9, 2006.

* Belgium: [ Fingerprint recognition in high schools] used for registration.

* Sweden: [ Kvarnby School in Stockholm] used to login to school computers.

* India: [ Hyderabad] used for canteen and registration.

* Dubai: [ Uptown School] used in library.

Security concerns related to the use of biometrics in schools

Recently, serious concerns about the security implications of using conventional biometric templates in schools have been raised by a number of leading IT security experts, including [ Kim Cameron] , architect of identity and access in the connected systems division at Microsoft, who cites research by Cavoukian and Stoianov [ [ Biometric Encrypton: A Positive-Sum Technology that Achieves Strong Authentication, Security AND Privacy] Cavoukian,A and Stoianov,A March 2007] to back up his assertion that "it is absolutely premature to begin using 'conventional biometrics' in schools".

Advantages claimed for school biometric systems

Biometric vendors claim benefits to schools such as improved reading skills, decreased wait times in lunch lines and increased revenues [ [ Fingerprint Software Eliminates Privacy Concerns and Establishes Success (FindBiometrics)] ] . They do not cite independent research to support this. Educationalist Dr Sandra Leaton Gray of Homerton College, Cambridge [ stated in early 2007] that "I have not been able to find a single piece of published research which suggests that the use of biometrics in schools promotes healthy eating or improves reading skills amongst children... There is absolutely no evidence for such claims".

Legislation governing the use of biometrics in schools

The following laws/legal opinions/guidance are in place to regulate children's use of biometric technology. To date the practise of using biometrics in schools is only legally regulated in the USA:

* [ Legislation in Illinois, SB1702, 2007]

* [ Legislation Illinois, SB2549, 2005-2006]

* [ Legislation in Iowa, HF685]

Non statutory advice issued regarding biometrics in schools


* [ Opinion of Jennifer M. Granholm, Attorney General, State of Michigan]


* [ Biometrics Institute Privacy Code approval determination] - September 2006. (This advice does not specifically mention the use of biometrics with children).


* [ Biometrics in Schools, Colleges and other Educational Institutions] 2007 - [ Data Protection Commissioner]


* [ Portsmouth Finger Scanning Technology Guidance] - June 2007. This, the first guidance issued in the UK, went to schools only in the Portsmouth area.

* [ Guidance on the use of biometric systems in schools'] - 23rd July 2007. Advice issued by the UK government via [ BECTA's] website.

* [ The use of biometrics in schools] - 23rd July 2007. Advice from the UK [ Information Commissioner's Office] .


See also

*Big Brother
*Privacy International

External links

* [] - Comprehensive site about fingerprints.
* [ Biometrics in Schools] - Latest news on the use and deployment of biometric systems in schools; particular emphasis on UK and US.
* [ School Biometrics: The Legal Conundrum] - Patricia Deubel, Ph.D. / T.H.E. Journal, 10 April 2007.
* [ Biometrics in K-12: Ban or Buy? (Part 1)] - Patricia Deubel, Ph.D. / T.H.E. Journal, 18 April 2007.
* [ Biometrics in K-12: Issues and Standardization (Part 2)] - Patricia Deubel, Ph.D. / T.H.E. Journal, 25 April 2007.
* [ Biometrics in K-12: Vendor Claims and Your Business Plan (Part 3)] - Patricia Deubel, Ph.D. / T.H.E. Journal, 02 May 2007.
* [ Index of relevant articles by Kim Cameron] , architect of identity and access in the connected systems division at Microsoft.
* [ How to fake fingerprints]
* [ New Yorker: Do fingerprints lie?]
* [ The Fingerprint Society] - Society for Fingerprint Examiners.
* [ Scientific Working Group on Friction Ridge Analysis, Study and Technology] - U.S. national working group on fingerprint examination.
* [ Difference between AFIS and biometrics used in schools]
* [ - Advanced Child Fingerprinting Technology]
* [ Latent Print Examination]
* [ Fingerprint Processing Guide]
* [ Biometrics]
* [ Biometrics Research Lab] - Michigan State University
* [ Galton's "Finger Prints"]
* [ Henry, Faulds, and Herschel's works on fingerprints]
* [ Will West as fable]
* [ Fingerprint research and evaluation at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology]
* [ Fingerprint pattern distribution statistics]
*gutenberg|no=19022|name=The Science of Fingerprints

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