Friday, 19 February 2016

Surveillance is being normalised in schools

"School lunch lines in the UK can be fraught: students receiving free lunches may not want their peers to know, lost payment cards mean some go without, and code-based payments leave children at risk of `shoulder surfing`, where others spot their number and use it to buy their own meal."

"Fingerprint scanners are being presented as one solution for doing away with this stress. They can be linked to online payments, making busy lunchtimes easier and faster, plus it will save schools from printing ID cards."

"A typical secondary school in the UK can end up producing more than 400 new payment cards every year to account for lost, damaged and new intake ones, says Nigel Walker, managing director of biometrics company BioStore. `Biometrics can’t be lost or forgotten, stolen or used by someone else. When students and staff identify themselves on the system, you can be sure it’s them. This improves a school’s safety in terms of access, security and accountability`."

"The Department for Education doesn’t track how many schools use biometric systems, but in 2014, campaigning group Big Brother Watch estimated that more than a million secondary schoolchildren had handed over their fingerprints."

"In these hi-tech schools, biometrics in particular fingerprints but also palm prints can be used for entering and exiting the main school building as well as classrooms and buses, taking attendance, and accessing lockers, computers, library books and printers. Add in other new technologies such as wearables, and civil rights campaigners fear the result is that surveillance is quietly being normalised in children from a young age."

"The Protections of Freedoms Act 2012 states that schoolchildren cannot have their fingerprints taken without written parental consent. Until then even the youngest of students may have had their biometric data captured. `There is no need to retrospectively gain this consent so many children are having their data processed without their, or their parents’, consent," says Emmeline Taylor, author of Surveillance Schools.`..."

"`As some schools introduce tracking devices to supposedly increase efficiencies, safeguard students and respond to issues such as truancy and obesity, other schools quickly follow suit through fear of otherwise being regarded as negligent of their responsibilities," says Taylor. "The only beneficiaries are the companies selling the equipment. Once these systems are viewed as necessary, then any cost, whether financial or social, becomes worth the trade. It is an ingenious strategy to turn limited public funds into private profits`."

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