As the new school term gets underway, now is the time for parents to check if their children are among the hundreds of thousands of pupils who are using biometric technology.
Today we have published our latest report looking at the use of biometric technology in secondary schools and academies which, based on data from the 2012-13 academic year, makes clear that fingerprints were taken from more than one million pupils.
You can read the report here.
Our research, gathered from Freedom of Information Requests to more than 3,000 schools, shows that at the start of the academic year 2012-13:
- An estimated 40% of schools in England are using biometric technology
- An estimated 31% of schools did not consult parents before enrolling children into a biometric system prior to the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 becoming law
Based on these figures, we estimate potentially as many as 1.28 million pupils have been fingerprinted at school, many without parental permission first being granted.
Going to school should not mean kids are taught they have no privacy, especially at a time when we are sharing more data about ourselves than ever before. Fingerprinting them and tracking what they do might save some admin work but the risk is pupils think it is normal to be tracked like this all the time. Schools need to be transparent about what data is being collected and how it is used.
Under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, the rules for schools and colleges that use biometric recognition systems, such as fingerprint identification and facial scanning, now state:
- For all pupils in schools and colleges under 18, they must obtain the written consent of a parent before they take and process their child’s biometric data.
- They must treat the data with appropriate care and must comply with data protection principles as set out in the Data Protection Act 1998.
- They must provide alternative means for accessing services where a parent or pupil has refused consent.
Parents will be rightly concerned to hear so many schools did not seek their permission to fingerprint their children, while pupils may not have been made aware they now have a legal right to ask to use a system that doesn’t require a fingerprint to be taken. The Government was right to change the law but it’s up to parents to make sure the law is being followed.