Biometrics in schools under scruntiy

Ministers have announced that the use of fingerprint and face recognition technology in schools, without expressed consent, is to be banned.  This announcement means that parents will be given the right to veto a school’s use of biometric data, while pupils are also expected to be allowed to refuse to participate.

Figures have suggested that around three in ten secondary schools presently use biometric data as a means of identification, paying for lunch, or to record attendance.  The new guidance from Ministers says that they will be required to ask for written permission from a parent before they collect the students’ biometric data.  However, even if a parent agrees a student would have ground to refuse to take part.

The Protection of Freedoms Act, which gained Royal Assent this month, has changed the advice given by the government on the use of biometric data.  The changes mean that where a pupil or parent refuses to consent then the school or college must provide alternatives.  The advice is currently being consulted on, with the final guide due to be published later this year.

This announcement from the government is a welcomed step forward in granting parents and pupils the power to refuse to use biometric devices in schools.   In many cases it is clear that the real motivation for using finger print scanning or facial recognition is often to build up a database of what one person has been doing, for example allowing parents to see what a child has had for their lunch.  Schools should not be using this intrusive and expensive technology to spy on pupils and these moves will make a real difference to protecting pupil’s privacy.