back to article ConLibs to outlaw kiddyprinting without permission

The new government plans to ban the controversial practice in schools of taking children's fingerprints without their permission. The decision is likely to mean a change in the law. According to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), as it stands the Data Protection Act allows schools to take pupil fingerprints without …

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Some schools in Northamptonshire

Require kids to have fingerprint scans to access school meals.

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WTF?

w...t...f

I rant about Australia's idiotic plan to censor the Internet, but there'd be blood on the streets if anyone so much as suggested this. WTF have you POMs been doing? Really?

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Black Helicopters

Dare I say...

... Where's the catch?

If there's one thing I've learned between bargain eBay deals and vendor specifications, it's that if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

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Stop

Why fingerprints?

"a fingerprint was needed to use the school dinners system"

Is there something wrong with the idea of having a staff member stood there with a list of names or issuing chits to eligible kids?

Aren't we probably spending more on a fingerprint system, an electronic gate and database and management for all that than we would spend by just letting anyone have a lunch if they want one?

I'll bet most of the kids have worked out a way round the system anyway (like jumping over the fence beyond the fingerprint reader, getting a friend to scan you in, or squeezing 2 kids in the gate at the same time)

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Bronze badge

It doesn't work like that...

...the system debits a pre-paid account, and hence no one knows whether you get free school dinners or not (which is the main reason for this system, that and avoiding kids having their dinner money stolen by bullies). There is no way of getting round this, other than allowing someone else to eat your food. Bearing in mind what school meals were like when I was a nipper, that's actually not such a bad idea.....

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Stop

... and

whats wrong with a till and a couple of pound coins.

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WTF?

I don't get it

Why do we need an electronic system to administer school lunches? It's a fucking school for Christ sake not a maximum security prison.

In my day (which is only 10 years back) we had Dinner Ladies who would look after us, serve us, and aid us at lunch times. They were very friendly approachable people and I can't help but think that this insane fingerprinting system is taking the jobs away from them?

What happens if a poor little 6 year old accidentally drops his dinner on the floor? A dinner lady would prob take pitty and get the little tyke a new one... this Technological Bully would simply say "No!".

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Anonymous Coward

Why do we need an electronic system to administer school lunches?

Because it gets children used to giving their identity.

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NT

They're not storing fingerprints... just a data matching hash

Sure - require permission. But to counter the shrill rhetoric...

Surely they're not storing the actual fingerprints – like PC Plod getting inky prints onto a little white piece of cardboard – just a hash of essential data points allowing a scanner to match it? Like my lappy does. What harm could come from that?

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Black Helicopters

Some time ago....

....I remember reading about a case where the police were involved with some sort of pupil-related trouble at a school, and when they discovered that there were fingerprints stored somewhere in the meal ticket system promptly insisted on being given access to the data and added some of it to the PNC. So, no, not all systems store a hash.

You'll also recall that the TrafficMaster system was used to show that someone had travelled to Glasgow to murder someone else, despite the fact that it claims to only store a tokenised version of the central stripe of a registration plate,

You can't trust any of these companies to do what they say they do....

And yay, I get to use the black chopper icon too!

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Big Brother

The problem is...

...that even if it is only hashing the fingerprints, it gets children used to the idea of giving their biometrics to officials without questioning it. Read 1984 if you don't understand why this is a bad thing. Pay particular attention to the last couple of chapters.

It may be an overreaction, but do you really want your children to have nothing to look forward to in life, except for the eventual bullet in the back of the neck?

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FAIL

Hashing does not prevent abuse

So what you're saying is that because it's a hash, police and other bodies can't take the fingerprints they've obtained from suspects and crime scenes, run them through the same hashing algorithm and then compare them against those obtained from school databases. Whoops ... yeah, hashing only prevents the original print being copied and used to frame someone or to obtain unauthorised access to the system. It does nothing to prevent abuse of these databases by government or police bodies, and it amounts to compulsory fingerprinting of the population from childhood for the purposes of control.

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Anonymous Coward

bout damn time

Why finger print kids? Let's look at the arguments shall we:

1. Speeds up queues. No more than sensibly implementing any non biometric register system.

2. It's easier. Easier than NOT fingerprinting kids? No I don't think so.

3. Protects against fraud. Yeah little Johnny is really going to pay for his lunchtime doughnut with a stolen credit card isn't he?

4. Trains children to be malleable in the hands of authority as required for the coming police state and in particular to surrender their ID on request to anyone for any reason. BINGO.

5. Enriches the people working towards the goals outlined in reason #4. Yes.

6. Takes money away from worthwhile spending on books etc. Yes.

7. Trains parents and teachers alike that it is acceptable for children (and immigrants) to be digitally cataloged, with a view to manufacturing their consent to, and implied agreement with, ID cards and the necessary infrastructure for verifying said cards as a prerequisites to activities that will include, but are not limited to; buying, selling, traveling, working and accessing public services.

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@ NT

ok mate publish your "hash of essential data points" on the internet, since you have nothing to fear

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Go

I would

give me an open-source one-way hash method

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Badgers

Mard

Why not take their fingerprints? The more biometric data stored nationally, the more chance of catching the guy who burgles your house, stabs your mother and poos in a policemans helmet.

On a more serious note, data on missing persons would be handy to have before they go missing or after you find them but they have amnesia.

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Unhappy

Your ID

I agree with an LD politician (forgot who) who says either we all have our biometrics on a database, no exceptions (apart from kids until they reach a certain age) or only convicted/charged criminals are on it. Kids trying to get their lunch should not be part of the picture.

While in theory I have no problem with the old Bill having a nice database handy so that they can solve crimes, I have no faith that such a system will not be abused by all and sundry. I see no means by which bullied kids are protected from having their lunch stolen by the use of finger print scanners. The bullies will simply order them to collect what they want or take it off them the other end. As for stealing money etc, normal swipe cards, possibly with a photo and/or pin, will do the job fine.

This is an insidious form of mental conditioning (as pointed out by others) and it is just a load of money to benefit some scabby 'security' firm which could actually provide a much cheaper solution.

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RE: Mard

Because I don't want it. I don't want the government to have access to my fingerprints, DNA or anything like it, and I sure as hell don't want my kids getting used to the idea that it's OK.

Do Not Want! Will Not Have!

I am not required to explain my reasons to you. You should accept that most people do not want this kind of thing regardless of how frivolous you perceive them to be.

With the new Coalition Government, we can all breathe a sigh of relief with the knowledge that they fully intend to rid the country of this New Labour, agenda driven bullshit.

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Re: RE: Mard

I totally agree.

I also find it entertaining that we now have a "coalition government"(*) which conjures a mental picture of Iraq late 2003....

--

(*) not a fair coalition when the second most popular party got nothing but the third most popular did....

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FAIL

Idiot!

Fingerprints are far from foolproof. There have been several high-profile cases of people being wrongly charged, tried and sometimes found guilty purely on the basis of fingerprints. Including a recent case in Scotland where a *policewoman* was sent down, because the fingerprint lab refused to admit they may have made a mistake.

By having everyone's on a databases only increases the chances of a mis-identification. Then you need to make sure you have an alibi at *all* times...

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not quite?

According to this story, she was acquitted. But the rest of the tale is pretty hair-raising; and it makes you wonder what happens to people who can't afford expensive outside experts.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a_mZ01OHBDM8&refer=uk-redirectoldpage

There was another case (reported in the Reg a few years back) of a US man whose fingerprint hash matched that of a former felon,and he was jailed for having a gun in his car (which was legal for a non-felon). Because aforesaid felon was out on parole, this innocent guy was sent to prison to serve the rest of this felon's sentence.

And because he was being sent 'back' to prison, he did not even get a trial. It all took some sorting out afterwards.

Something of a fail for 'nothing to hide nothing to fear'.

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FAIL

could lukewarmdog be the stupidest El Reg reader?

For fuck's sake what's in the space between your ears?

First, biometrics are far from infallible and can only be made to work reliably in controlled environments with small numbers of users: eg access to a nuclear missile silo. They don't scale because the rate of false negatives and false postitives makes them unworkable in practice.

Next, the absence of biometric data does not prevent criminals getting caught and prosecuted.

Third the *presence* of biometric data at a crime scene does not guarantee guilt. Check out the case of Shirley McKee, a Scottish cop who had her career wrecked, health ruined and faced perjury charges because she told the truth. Her fingerprints - not a hash! - were wrongly identified as being in the room where a murder was committed. She'd been outside protecting the crime scene. She could have lied and said she did go into the room and all would have been well. But she had't and refused to lie. The fingerprint experts were considered "infallible" which implied she lied in court when she had actually told the truth. BTW when the alleged killer was finally prosecuted, he went free because there was more than reasonable doubt about the fingerprint evidence.

Fourth, mass fingerprinting and biometrics are disproportionate in a free society. Or are you one of the loons who thinks everyone should have an RFID tag implanted at birth and their every movement and conversation monitored by our Big Brother overlords?

Finally no government can be trusted to look after this sort of data or not lose or misuse it. Even if the current bozos in power behave themselves, which is unlikely, that can't be assumed for future governments. Remember ZanuLabour promising UK air space was not for sale and within weeks they privatised the National Air Traffic Service? Imagine what politicians would do with a National Biometric Database if they got their grubby paws on that. And who they'd sell that data to.

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Big Brother

I used to bring my own lunch to shcool...

wrapped in tinfoil.

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Ah yes

Good ol' tinfoil.

Used to lock freshness in -- and government spooks out!

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Joke

And when you've eaten your lunch

You can make a fetching hat from the foil

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Boffin

A "Fetching Hat"?

A "Repellent" Hat

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FAIL

So if it for lunches..

....to stop kids getting bullied for a) cash or b) because they get free meals.

Whats wrong with a swipe card? If it get's nicked, it gets cancelled.

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Unhappy

RE: So if it for lunches..

This is exactly what my kids school does. Swipe card for lunches...

... of course they use fingerprints for the library so they're screwed anyway.

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.. and if you squeal to the teachers so the card gets cancelled...

... me and my big mates will duff you up. So keep schtum, maggot!

Unfortunately, teachers are so disempowered when it comes to discipline, this kind of playground hoodlum is free to flourish.

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Not realy though...

Squealing about "bullies will steal it" is just the sort of thing we hear from the govenment. Don't tackle a problem, work around it.

Also unless something has changed drasticly since when I was at school 15 years ago bullying has nothing to do with the powers teachers have and everything to do with schools default reaction to any report of bullying to be "nananananananawe don't have a problemnanananananananaIF your child was bullied it must be a one offnanananananananaim not listening because we don't have any bullyingnanananananananana".

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Headmaster

Humm...

"since when I was at school" amoung others.

Perhaps I should have spent more time learning to write and less time smokeing behind the bike sheds.

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Anonymous Coward

workaround

In sending your sprog to our school, you give us permission to fingerprint it at will.

Still plenty of proto totalitarians out there...

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Data

Even if schools aren't allowed to store pupils' fingerprints, consider this small sample of the data they already store:

UPN; Child's address phone number, ethnicity, possibly religion; first language; preferred name; parental address and phone number; the address and phone number of anywhere else the child stays at on a regular basis; tutor group; full timetable; am/pm and individual lesson registration details (present/late/absent [a dozen or so reasons]); full assessment history; exams taken / grades given; SEN information; reports; detentions given...

In the various schools I worked in before I left the education sector, the library computer system was completely separate, and relied on CSV import to add / remove new students. But it wouldn't surprise me if some school MIS systems integrate library and admin functions...

However, if parents raise concerns, how about dual authentication - offer either fingerprints or the traditional barcoded physical plastic card?

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Thumb Up

Yay!

I'm liking this ConDem government more and more.

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Alert

Kiddies

Anyone ever noticed that kids always try to find a way to "interfere" in some way with the school computers, even if the network is supposed to be locked down.

How long until 14 and 15 year work out how to make fake fingerprints from a thin layer of epoxy (or something)?

I can't wait. A new breed of supercriminal!

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Black Helicopters

Silione not epoxy

Silicone bathtub sealant, £3-ish for a tube at any DIY store.

If you just have an image of a fingerprint you'll also need an appropriate means to transfer it onto celluloid (or other transparent substrate) by photography or computer printer, and a PCB kit (contact-print the picture onto the photo-resist coated PCB then etch it with ferric chloride). A PCB kit is a few quid at any amateur electronics outlet.

No, I've never tried. It's so bloody obvious it'll work I don't need to.

This is one of numerous reasons I oppose a national fingerprint database. The criminals will steal fingerprints out of it, make silicone copies, leave random dabs around all over crime scenes. Do you have an alibi? After enough random innocents have been incarcerated then (mostly) freed on appeal, fingerprint evidence will have been wholly discredited in criminal proceedings. Exactly what the bad guys want. They're probably funding the lobbying for compulsory ID.

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Anonymous Coward

fairly obvious

its pretty hard to forget your fingerprints, very easy for kids to forget money, lose it, have it stolen, ditto cards and forget pin numbers or spend it on sweeties, down the chip shop or wherever.

As long as the information is used for the intended purpose which under the data protection laws it should be (eg identifying the pupil for the purposes of billing lunch) then I don't see a big issue. If its abused then those that sanction its abuse should be punished to the full extent of the law. The data should be destroyed as soon as its no longer needed for its purpose.

As for all the other clap trap about dropped dinners, no dinner ladies etc its rubbish, all that has changed here is the payment system. It also saves the school processing and having cash on site and the issues that presumably causes.

All that said parents should have a choice and for those that don't want to opt in it should still be possible to pay by other more traditional means.

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Boffin

How about:

Parent or Local Authority pays for child's meals in advance, either weekly, monthly, termly, whatever.

Child receives toke, e.g. card with name and expiry date to receive said meals.

Child presents card at lunch queue.

If child forgets card, responsible adult, i.e. teacher, has list of children entitled to said meals and checks them off.

You could even have this system without the cards, although that slows things down.

The card system does open it up to abuse, i.e. child giving card to other child to get free lunch then saying they forgot theirs.

Any system of checking the cards should also check for duplicate lunches. i.e. when teacher later checks whether the child without the card had lunch, they didn't also get lunch using the card system. This creates an admin overhead but only spot-checks would be necessary, since any child cheating the system in this way would know that they stood the chance of being found out and getting into serious trouble.

Why do you need the fingerprints again?

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FAIL

Hmm

True, It is hard to forget your fingerprints.... but it is easy to damage them (albeit temporally). I can envision a scenario where child A cuts his finger during a woodwork lesson and the finger print scanner does not get a match. Ah well, no meal for him today then.

And you mention that parents have the option to opt out of the system and use traditional methods? So your now saying that the school will have to run two systems which contradicts your statement on saving the school on processing time and having cash on site etc.

Like I said, traditional systems have been around for donkeys years. True they may not be perfect, but they seem a damn site better than putting an expensive and possible 'human rights' breaching technological system in place where a lady and a clip-board would surface. I had school dinners in primary and secondary school. I never had any problems and I didn't need my finger prints scanned every day!

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Bronze badge

You need the prints because....

...like at my kids school, if they want a meal on one day a week, they take cash and add it to their account, there is no other way to pay other than by swiping their finger across the reader.

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FAIL

Re: You need the prints because...

Thank you. That is *exactly* the reason why it fails. If there is no other way, you have a nice, big, expensive system that fails if someone has a cut finger, paint, glue, etc. Of course, children at your school may not ever come in contact with such "disruptive" or "frivilous" activities such as arts, science or physical education - too much "cultural conditioning" to drill into the little nippers, eh?

So, obviously, the school is not protecting the CONSUMER rights of the children by guaranteeing them the meal(s) they have ALREADY PAID FOR.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: fairly obvious

"its pretty hard to forget your fingerprints, very easy for kids to forget money, lose it, have it stolen, ditto cards "

So?

If a kid loses his money, he can't eat. I'd say that a day spent hungry would teach him to hang on to his fucking money in future wouldn't you? And if you ask me, skipping a few meals could be the best thing that ever happened to some of these doughnut jockeys.

They wouldn't be missing much anyway. Let's see what's in a standard school meal; corn syrup, the digested remains of whatever lunch lady Satan ate the night before on her way back from the race track - and about 2 kilograms of starch to bring the damn thing up to code. Except that they were reading the building code by mistake. I'll pass.

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Don't see the big issue?

"As long as the information is used for the intended purpose which under the data protection laws it should be (eg identifying the pupil for the purposes of billing lunch) then I don't see a big issue."

Clearly you don't. My basic objection is that these kind of system are getting children used (at a VERY early age) to the idea of handing over biometric data in exchange for entitlement or goods and services.

The argument that it is convenient could just as easily be applied to the government ID card scheme, the concept of microchipping humans, or the use of GPS to track vehicle movements, etc.

If we raise a generation of children who will happily hand over their fingerprints and DNA in order to (for example) claim NHS services, or to vote, I believe that we'll be doing our children a huge disservice. There is a limit to how much power a government should have, surely?

In and of itself, the convenience argument just doesn't wash as far as I'm concerned. Maybe it is time for us to accept that privacy is dead. But I'm going to fight it for as long and and as hard as I can to keep it alive.

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Silver badge

@They're not storing fingerprints

Because the company takes a full fingerprint to generate the hash.

A college here wanted to introduce it for the library, the system was built and run by a US company. Although their pitch was full of stuff about the entry system only storing a hash - they couldn't guarantee that the raw fingerprint data wouldn't be handed over to the US authorities under patriot-ish rules.

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Thumb Up

The answer to "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear"

Is "No need to ask, no need to know."

And in this case, you do *not* need fingerprints to implement a free meals system.

Thumbs up to the ConDem. It *might* even stopp a few schools asking for it in their budgets. Given how *many* schools there are, this *could* add up to a fair chunk of cash.

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Pirate

Bring back Labour

If you don't fingerprint all kids how can you identify them when I remove their heads?

What do you mean you're not allowed to make distasteful jokes on the internet?

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Joke

That's easy...

...you perform a DNA match against the NDNAD.

Oh, you mean all those innocent kids are going to be taken off it now? That will complicate matters seriously.....

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Huh. WTF went wrong with the world

Eeeeeeh When I wert Lad, uhm I mean Girl.

In Primary Skool we got Free Lunch. Sometimes I even got to eat mine with the Head Master.

There was opportunity for extra afties afterwards as well.

Free 1/3rd pints of Milk too. I spent a bit of time dragging the trolley about the corridors making deliveries.

In Gwammar Skool we had to punt 25p in a machine for a token for grub. Perhaps this was the beginning of the demise.. Can't remember what the price of a packet of crisps was in those days. 10p?

Monster plate of grub and the opportunity for extra afties afterwards as well...... other than the Tapioca, frogspawn. Spotted Dick and Custards Brill.

Same Schtonk as long as you spotted the PE Puton before he gave you grief about using your fork the wrong way up. Plus you could catch the exchange French 'Mistress' with her make up on. Korrr.

FREE SKOOL MEALS, or for 25p, FOR ALL.

And propah Schtonk... not that Jaimie Oliver Tarty Shite.

Meat, Two Veg, plus mashies, and Gravy followed by Sponge Pudding, of various varieties Ho Ho, wiv Custard.

BRILL and SORTED

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What I want to know is...

How many times were Labour Party candidates/politicians asked to show their ID cards during the recent campaigning and how many did so?

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