Earlier this school year, Carroll County Public Schools had biometric scanners in place in about 10 school cafeterias, where they were used to help expedite the process of paying for school meals. Officials said the scanners would be more efficient than processing cash transactions or using a PIN keypad system.
But officials fielded complaints from some parents who felt the scanners were an invasion of privacy.
If you think biometrics for school lunch payment are bad, you’re not going to like this:
Joy Pullmann: Data mining kids crosses line (Orange County Register)
The U.S. Department of Education is investigating how public schools can collect information on “non-cognitive” student attributes, after granting itself the power to share student data across agencies without parents’ knowledge.
The feds want to use schools to catalogue “attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes and intrapersonal resources – independent of intellectual ability,” according to a February DOE report, all under the guise of education.
Read the whole thing.
Like we’ve said before, “If schools are unable to keep data secure, biometric template information is the last thing that should concern parents.” “Secure” doesn’t really apply in the situation described above but the observation that schools already possess very detailed information about students stands.
For the curious: This is an actual biometric template created using one finger, an off-the-shelf fingerprint reader and their freely-circulated software development kit (SDK). It consists of 800 hexadecimal characters.
Something similar could be used instead of a PIN number for lunch purchases in Maryland schools unless the state bans the technology.
Now which is more risky to student privacy, those 800 characters which I’ve freely put online and made public, or other types of records schools routinely and uncontroversially* keep?
*Ms. Pullmann seems to find the potential sharing of information without parental knowledge and the chipping away of existing privacy protections that prevented sharing of non-academic information (including biometric information) more problematic than the fact that schools know a lot of non-cognitive details about students.
On another note the mention of “a biometric wrap on kids’ wrists” caught my eye. Within the large and growing list of biometric modalities, I’ve never heard of wrist biometrics. I suspect that this is another example of confusion that arises when “biometrics” and “biostatistics” are needlessly lumped together, a subject we have covered in some detail.