Friday, 25 April 2008

Fingerprinting to speed up school meals

Who was aware that school meals were a such problem that taking children's fingerprints "should significantly speed up queues ". So how much time would be "saved" ? And to what use would it be put ? Would it be used for learning ? More leisure time for teachers ? Chill out time for pupils ? Kitchen staff ? The letter from the Principal did not make this clear.

The letter went on:

".. Instead of using cards to recognise a pupil and activate their account, pupils' fingerprints are scanned, converted into digital data and recorded. The image of the print itself is not recorded and cannot be regenerated from the digital data, which means it cannot be compared to any existing fingerprint records. "

The assertion that the print cannot be regenerated from the digital data is simply untrue and also misleading. All of the actual print is not recorded because it doesn't have to be. Only the salient points of the prints are needed to create a unique record. This is called a template. Something like a contour map which gives only the high points of a landscape.

In fact the digital record is the print. As such it is a unique record personal to each individual-stored on a computer as a binary number. It is a unique identifier.

Computers can be hacked, compromised, stolen. Identity theft can follow from that.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

The day they stole the prints

Oakgrove College, an Integrated Secondary School in Derry, North of Ireland, on Monday 14th. April 2008, fingerprinted most of its pupils in the name of school meals.

This assault on civil liberties passed unremarked in the local media and unchallenged by most parents. The reason ? The media didn't know about it and most parents didn't realise the significance of it.

Myself included. Until the week before the day. The day they stole the prints.

A letter from the school on March 18th. had lain unread or not fully comprehended. Who takes much heed of a letter about school meals ? On clearing a heap of papers for dumping more care was taken and letters scrutinised.

The letter I was about to scrunch and dump only caught my eye because of the words "fingerprints are scanned". Children were to be fingerprinted in order to "...significantly speed up queues for school meals".

What ? But surely people are only fingerprinted if they're suspected of a crime ? Surely only the police can fingerprint suspects and even then only according to well defined legal limits ?

And surely again, even the police can't fingerprint children without serious and compelling reasons ? And, on even such occasions, their parents must be present.

Fingerprinting then, is surely to be done only in exceptional circumstances for adults - never for children except in extraordinarily exceptional circumstances.
What is extraodinarily exceptional about Oakgrove College wanting to speed up its school meals queues ? The answer is - nothing. So there must be really another reason for fingerprinting. But what ? Oakgrove are not saying. Yet...

The letter from Oakgrove to parents paints a picture of a benign almost cuddly technology that is simply another efficient tool for the modern era that makes life that wee bit easier. In such bland language is piracy cloaked.

The march of the fingerprint pirates is a march towards a totalitarian future which every parent should oppose. That a school which was set up to challenge sectarianism and promote equality should arrogantly set aside the principle of informed parental consent is to strike a blow against those very principles.

From school meals to totalitarian state might seem a mighty leap in one paragraph but by increments we'll get there.