Our Man in West­min­ster

Schools tak­ing fin­ger­prints

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - OPINION - by Damian Green

I HAVE been asked an in­trigu­ing ques­tion which I want to share more widely: How many chil­dren in Ash­ford have had their fin­ger­prints taken at school? You might as­sume, as I did, that this se­ri­ous in­tru­sion into the pri­vacy of chil­dren would only hap­pen to those who had com­mit­ted an of­fence. You would be wrong. Thou­sands of schools around the coun­try have qui­etly started us­ing bio­met­ric recorders to take the fin­ger­prints of their pupils. Many of th­ese are do­ing so with­out even in­form­ing par­ents, let alone get­ting their con­sent. If this hap­pens to a child un­der the age of 12 it is a breach of the Data Pro­tec­tion Act, but my un­ease about this grow­ing prac­tice goes wider than that. It looks to me like an­other move to­wards as­sum­ing we are all guilty un­til proved in­no­cent; the ex­act re­verse of the tra­di­tional ba­sis of Bri­tish jus­tice. It is bad enough when adults are treated like this. It is re­ally dis­turb­ing when young chil­dren are brought up to be­lieve that this is a nor­mal part of life. This all started a num­ber of years ago, but there are still no na­tional guide­lines about how and when schools should be al­lowed to do this. The ex­cuse given is that this al­lows chil­dren to ac­cess li­braries and buy can­teen food. There are two rea­sons why us­ing fin­ger­prints like this is wrong. The first is that it con­di­tions chil­dren to ac­cept the loss of any pri­vacy. The sec­ond is that the in­for­ma­tion is be­ing stored on data­bases which may not be se­cure. So is this hap­pen­ing to your child, or to you? I would be in­trigued to know how many schools now op­er­ate this sys­tem and how many par­ents know about it. At the very least, we need a proper pub­lic de­bate about it.

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