4D facial recognition systems in Northamptonshire schools

Facereg At Big Brother Watch we were concerned to learn this week of a Northamptonshire school's decision to introduce a new facial-recognition system to track pupils' movements.

According to reports in the London Metro:

"About 200 sixth formers are having their faces scanned when they ‘clock in and out’ at Sir Christopher Hatton School, in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, along with pupils in schools in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.  The system can deliver messages to pupils when they sign in, using a four-digit pin, and notes whether they’re late"

Speaking to the Metro Kelli Foster, the school's Head of Sixth Form is right to describe the technology as "incredible"; for indeed it is incredible that schools should feel the need to turn to hold information as to the distance between the eyes and noses of their pupils in order to distinguish between them.  Furthermore, Ms Foster explains that prior to the installation of the technology "each pupil had to sign in and out of the reception by filling in a form – but now it takes under ten seconds".  Without wishing to take an antidelivian attitude to new technology, we at BBW have seen few sign-in forms which take as long as ten seconds to fill in…

With a costly £9,000 price tag (equivalent to £45 per pupil to install), such systems have limited benefits yet are wide open to abuse – from the risk of data theft to the misuse of images by unscrupulous individuals.

Rather than spend money on gimmicks like this, teachers and schools should focus on educating their pupils – and getting to know who they are.

By Daniel Hamilton

Posted by on Oct 8, 2010 in Databases, Online privacy, Privacy | 4 Comments


  1. Paul
    8th October 2010

    Sadly children are conditioned from Nursery to accept CCTV and finger printing intrusion in there lives. Some papers carry comments from students saying how great this sysyem is and how it saves them 10 minutes out there lives from doing formal registration. The other sad fact is parents don’t care enough to even question if it legal to film and finger print there child every second of the day. it is a shame.

  2. Stuart Bonar
    9th October 2010

    The Times covered this story too, and as I commented on their website alongside this story – there are over 20,000 state primary and secondary schools in England alone. Rolling this system out to all of them would cost almost £200,000,000!
    Maybe instead we could just stick with depending on teachers having (a) a pair of eyes, (b) a pen and (c) a register.

  3. Purlieu
    9th October 2010

    Register book, teacher, pen – this system has worked for donkeys years.
    Now facial recogition systems – what could possibly go wrong.

  4. Purlieu
    10th October 2010

    10 seconds to do each scan, an hour later each day to input “clocking amendments”