Fingerprinting in schools

At first sight it seems a horrifying thought-schoolchildren being fingerprinted. Not only is the idea to fingerprints schoolchildren but to use this fingerprinting on a daily basis. As happening right now. It’s estimated that in Britain alone every day more than 1 million and possibly up to 2 million, children’s fingerprints are accessed and used every day.

This is a science of Biometrics and is widespread in the USA. There seems to be three main ways in which fingerprinting or Biometrics is used in schools. In the first place students place their finger in the screening device as a enter school for the day. This logs their arrival at school and eliminates the need for the teacher to take or call the Roll.

Biometrics are also used instead of library cards. Library cards can be lost, stolen or misused. When a student takes out a library book using their fingerprint none of this misuse is possible.

And fingerprinting is popular in schools with cafeterias. Those students who are considered needy and who receive free food are not embarrassed by showing a concession card. All students can have money in an account and so, at the price of their meal the ducted from that account with a single swipe of their finger.

In Australia there has been fierce opposition from parents when schools have tried to introduce fingerprinting, for whatever reason, into the community. However a lot of the hysteria around this issue is falsely based. Biometrics is not actually fingerprinting. Initially students will have their finger scanned and an algorithm is formed from the main features of the student’s finger. It is this algorithm that is stored and matched against the pupils name when he or she put their finger in the scanner. It’s not possible to create the students finger print from this algorithm. At no stage are students’ fingerprints actually in circulation.

There are other issues of course.

  • In some cases parents have not been asked to approve the practice.
  • Some people argue that pupils are being conditioned to surrender personal information too easily through technology.
  • The whole system gets complicated when some students opt out.

These arguments aside, we can expect that Australian schools will follow the trend from Britain and USA and look towards implementing Biometrics in the next few years.


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