UK Schools Introducing Biometrics Without Due Care

There has been a new report published on the use of biometric data in schools. The report is entitled ‘The State of Biometrics 2022: A Review of Policy and Practice in UK Education’, and you can find the full report by clicking here

The report states that making children use biometrics to prove their eligibility for ‘Free School Meals’ goes against the provision that restricts obligatory biometric systems. With biometric data processing technology becoming more and more readily available, more schools and educational institutions are adopting their use. Children’s rights advocates are becoming more concerned about their use, saying that the collecting of children’s biometric data is intrusive, and alternative methods should be used.

In the report, the UK Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Fraser Sampson believes that it is important to understand the answers to various questions regarding the use of biometric technology in schools. Firstly, who benefits from using the technology, who is overseeing its use and ensuring compliance, and whether or not the technology partners that are being used have been properly vetted. Sampson also highlights the fact that many, including the DfE see mere adherence to Chapter 2 of the Article as sufficient in ensuring “the lawful, ethical and accountable use of biometric surveillance in schools.” According to Sampson, this shouldn’t be enough, stating that:

“While Chapter 2 addresses one narrow legal issue (that of protecting biometric information of children in schools) and guidance on its practical implementation is vital, I do not believe that this excludes the need to address the many wider technological, legal and societal issues of biometric surveillance generally. If biometric surveillance is to have a legitimate role in places of education, both role and legitimacy will need a much broader approach than this.”

The report also looks at the use of biometrics in schools across the United Kingdom, and highlights that over 75% of secondary schools are implementing biometric systems, with this figure only increasing as time goes on. Unfortunately, the report finds that the current legislation (The UK Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, as well as the UK’s data protection legislation) are failing to protect the rights of children when it comes to the collection of their biometric data in educational settings. Those conducting the report urge lawmakers to improve legislation in this area and create greater oversight.

Again, please feel free to read the full report by clicking here.

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