Have you come across fingerprinting in schools?

(41 Posts)
Melmagpie Wed 14-Nov-12 09:27:02

A friend is researching the prevalence of the fingerprinting of children in schools and I offered to post here - has anyone had experience of this? And if so was any parental consent obtained first?

HecatePropylaea Wed 14-Nov-12 18:10:42

My children's schools have a cashless dinner money system and it's done with their thumb print.

I don't recall having to sign anything, but it was very well explained at the open evenings and in the handbook and all that.

I don't care anyway, what foul deeds can be done against my children with a thumb print? grin

ParsingFancy Wed 14-Nov-12 18:10:47

Converting to a algorithm doesn't necessarily offer security.

If the output is unique to each fingerprint, you could identify a right index print found elsewhere by simply converting it in the same way and comparing to the database. You might as well have given the school (and the police) the whole fingerprint.

Of course, the police would need a warrant, so it's not completely open season. Unless someone breaks into the database - or just loses a copy, as happened to national Child Benefit records.

RedGreenRouge, the school would be in breach of the Data Protection Act if they kept the data after she left, so it's not encouraging that they don't even know if they do this. And in fact it's a common breach.

Yup, the school I work at has it. We use it for library cards, dinner and printing.

Consent was obtained and their is an alternative - I know of one pupil whose fingerprint isn't used.

ParsingFancy Wed 14-Nov-12 18:38:34

By the way, anything in digital form is "only stored as numbers" - that's essentially what digital means!

Your digital photos are "only numbers".

I'm not saying any particular fingerprint system is necessarily storing full fingerprints.

Just that anyone who tells you, "It's OK because it's only storing numbers" is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. And I'd wonder why they wanted to do that.

complexnumber Wed 14-Nov-12 18:44:40

Even better:
Each child has a bar code slapped on their forehead.

It would help in so many ways!

BoundandRebound Wed 14-Nov-12 20:55:20

It is not a picture stored digitally it is a mathematical formula joining a small number of points on the map of the fingerprint but not enough points to define an actual fingerprint as used by police for identification that can hold up in any judicial process.

So no the police can't create an identifiable fingerprint from it

Nobody is trying to pull the wool over your eyes, nobody cares if you are the one or two families in a thousand who have an issue with this, it's a standard technology.

I just simply don't get the scandal and conspiracy that people try to attach to it. There is none, from a school POV its laughable to pretend there are other motives.

TalkinPeace2 Wed 14-Nov-12 21:04:05
ParsingFancy Wed 14-Nov-12 23:18:39

I didn't say the police could create an identifiable fingerprint from it.

I said the police could take a fingerprint they have found in RL, apply the algorithm and then use the school database to identify it. Thanks for sharing the figure of identifiable only to 1 in 7000, btw, Bound, I've been wondering about that.

Do I think the current UK government would collect up school databases in case they came in handy later? No. Do I think a rather different govt would be delighted come in and discover it had a reservoir of data about every schoolchild in the country. Yes, it's happened before.

If it's just data about current schoolchildren, the potential is very limited. But if the schools aren't religious about deleting data - or it's leaking in any significant quantity - it will be a reservoir of more of the population.

In this scenario, it's probably not important if the data isn't itself admissible in court, the intelligence is usually what they're after.

Re "from a school POV its laughable to pretend there are other motives."

It doesn't matter what the motives of the collector were; what matters is once data is there, it can be used for other purposes.

I don't honestly know if schools passing (eventually) the majority of the population through their biometric databases will lead to harm. If deletion is carried out rigorously maybe not. But deletion is an area data controllers tend to be weak on - as discovered by RedGreenRouge's DD above.

Btw several schools described above seem to be in breach of the Portsmouth guidelines linked by edam, and RGR's DD's school may well be in breach of the law.

BoundandRebound Thu 15-Nov-12 06:48:50

And thats the perspective i dont get, to what purpose could police get a fingerprint from real life run it through a biometric algorithm used in a particular school, assuming its a standard one and not randomised of course, to identify a particular student when it's not admissible, nor can be used in any judicial process?

Also the link is one governing bodies policy not national guidelines.

I'd be far more concerned, if I was the type of person to be concerned about being identified, about a potential DNA database than the system used in schools.

BoundandRebound Thu 15-Nov-12 06:50:32

Can you explain how RGR's school is breaking the law though?

ParsingFancy Thu 15-Nov-12 08:27:21

If RGR's DD's school are keeping the data after students leave, they are in breach of principle 5 of the DPA:
"Personal data processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes ... In practice, it means that you will need to... securely delete information that is no longer needed for this purpose or these purposes"

We don't know they are failing to delete, but the fact they refused to tell doesn't bode well. By the way, I don't imagine malice here - just ignorance and incompetence, which are quite enough to cause a problem.

If RGR's DD wants to find out if her data has been deleted, when she's left she can make a subject access request to the school's fingerprint database Data Controller (just address a letter to "The Data Controller" - the school has by law to have designated someone) to ask what data they still hold about her.

ParsingFancy Thu 15-Nov-12 10:47:32

Not all police activity is geared towards the judicial process.

Even in the UK, it can be about disruption rather than prosecution, as when the police used Automatic Number Plate Recognition to disrupt people travelling to the completely legal 2008 climate camp at Kingsnorth (police debriefing paper, pp25-6).

In some countries, intelligence-led activity is more of the "taken away in the small hours and never seen again" type. Once a government has decided it's own citizens are the enemy, it's amazing the resources it will throw at spying on them.

And as the Dutch discovered in May 1940, you can acquire a govt like this in a week. Which turns round and says, "Ooh, nice accurate census data you've got there. We particularly like the column where you list everyone's religion."

Of course every data collection carries some risk, as the census example shows. I agree completely that DNA data is much more concerning. But I do wonder if the use of fingerprinting in schools is proportionate. How much of a risk is it, especially if poorly managed? How much of a benefit is it?

And why, if it's a real benefit, hasn't fingerprint id replaced swipe cards in the adult world?

Sorry, that's a lot of questions and no answers. But I'm glad the OP's friend is doing some research into this. We need to make decisions from a position of knowledge.

ParsingFancy Thu 15-Nov-12 10:49:42

Gah
it's its own citizens.

anniesw Thu 15-Nov-12 15:16:48

My DD's local secondary school have it for lunch and it works very well. You top up on line so they can't loose their dinner money - or spend it at a newsagent on their way to school

TunaPastaBake Thu 15-Nov-12 15:54:07

My DS has it at secondary school - we had a very informative info sheet and were asked for our consent - other options available if people did not want it.

Happy for the UK's intelligence services to access my sons biometric print to see whether he had pizza or BLT for lunch grin If they could offer some useful tips to get him to eat some veg and fruit I would be extremely grateful .

Melmagpie Fri 16-Nov-12 17:04:57

Thanks for your replies everyone!

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