The Toughest Job

It is often said that parenting is the toughest job and at times it can feel that way, but I love my salary of hugs and "I Love You Mum"s.

Learning difficulties: Three mothers talk about the challenges they and their children face


At 18 a child is usually on the threshold of independence; but what if they have learning disabilities? We talk to three mothers about the issues they and their children face.

Learning difficulties: Three mothers talk about the challenges they and their children face

Fingerprinting In Schools - Data Is Transferrable


The manufacturers of these biometric systems assert that the child's finger print is not stored as an image on the computer system. Each finger print is converted to a unique identifying code and it is this number which is stored. They state that it is not possible to regenerate a finger print from this numeric code, however this is not entirely truthful. Whilst the regenerated image would not be of photographic quality, it would contain enough unique identifying data points that it could be matched to the child from whom the original finger print was taken. This regeneration was confirmed in a study called “From Template To Image : Reconstructing Fingerprints From Minutiae Points” by Arun Ross, Jidnya Shah and Anil K. Jain, published in the April 2007 edition of “IEEE Transactions on pattern analysis and machine intelligence”, Vol 29, No 4.

There are international standards set in place (INCITS 398 & NISTIR 6529) which ensure that this type of biometric data is compatible and interchangeable with other manufacturers systems. This means that it would be feasible for the information to be transferred for use in other areas, and not just for purpose of a cashless catering system. Whilst, in the future, it may prove beneficial for the school to implement an automated registration system or update the school library, there is no guarantee that the government will not make it compulsory for the schools to handover this information for inclusion on a national database. Certainly with the current counter-terrorism climate, the roll-out of ContactPoint and the compulsory National ID card scheme still sitting quietly on the political back burners, I think it would be naive not to consider the prospect of a dark and sinister Orwellian future. Even if you consider that bleak prospect an impossibility, under the existing Data Protection Act (section 29) the school may still be required to allow the police access to the children's biometric data, should a pupil be suspected of a crime where there were unidentified finger prints left at the scene.

I am not happy with the prospect of unknown people fishing through my children's biometric data. Data which is unique to them as individuals, and will remain unchanging and permanent throughout their entire lives. This is not the sort of data that should be given up to make a school canteen more efficient.


Posted by at Sunday, February 28, 2010 1:51 PM
Edited on: Friday, March 05, 2010 10:04 AM

Fingerprinting In Schools - Practical Considerations.


Last week my eldest daughter came home with a letter stating that her school was intending to introduce a biometric system (fingerprint scanner) to replace the existing swipe cards in their cashless catering system. Now, the advances that have been made in technology recently are really quite astounding, some of them scarily so, but I do question whether the use of such technology in schools is necessary.

Apparently the introduction of the biometric system will give the school "a more modern, streamlined and efficient service and make the catering experience an even better one for everyone using it.". Personally, I don't see how introducing a finger print scanner can better the catering experience. It can't improve the quality of the food, it won't ensure that my child will eat healthily, nor can it reduce the cooking times or do the washing up for the catering staff. The letter states that it "will solve the problems of lost, forgotten or damaged cards which can cause a lot of inconvenience, including longer queueing times". To me, reducing inconvenience seems a bizarre reason to justify fingerprinting every child in the school, especially as there will also be inconveniences with a biometric system. Okay, I agree that children are not likely to lose or forget their fingers, but they are prone to damage them! A finger print scanner is not going to work on a child with a bandaged hand. Also, according to Mitch Johns (President and Founder of Food Service Solutions) when a child has a growth spurt, this can distort their fingerprints to an extent where the scanners do not recognise the finger being scanned! There will also be instances when the glass plate, that the children are expected to put their thumb on, becomes dirty or scratched. This renders the scanner inoperable until the glass plate is cleaned or replaced.

Another consideration is the matter of hygiene. The pupils are expected to scan their finger print before they may take and eat their food. I think it is a certainty that the children will not be supervised to ensure that they all wash their hands thoroughly before touching the scanner. How many children will end up sick with stomach bugs because some lad in Year 7 didn't bother washing his hands after using the urinal?

These are just practical considerations. When you then consider the sensitivity of the data of held, the questionable act of fingerprinting children in the first place, data security issues and the government's commitment to widespread data sharing, the whole practise takes on a much more sinister overtone.

Posted by at Sunday, February 28, 2010 11:02 AM
Edited on: Sunday, February 28, 2010 2:06 PM