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UK Schools Are Under Investigation For Using Facial Recognition On Kids At Lunch
By Alexa Heah, 19 Oct 2021
ID 26705528 © via Msphotographic | Dreamstime.com
The United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will launch an investigation into the use of facial recognition software at several schools in North Ayrshire. It was previously revealed by The Financial Times that nine institutions had been using the technology to process payments for school lunches.
The agency, which runs as an independent body protecting information rights in the country, will be speaking to the North Ayrshire council, and recommend a “less intrusive” way to receive payments.
A spokesperson did remind the institutions that facial recognition technology had to be compliant with data protection laws throughout its use, and that schools should consider the effects of collecting students’ biometric data before implementing such software.
“Organizations should consider using a different approach if the same goal can be achieved in a less intrusive manner,” the spokesperson added.
The firm behind the software, CRB Cunninghams, told The Guardian that the technology is being used for safety reasons during the pandemic, since it offers cashless and contactless payment solutions. It also posited that, since its use, lunch lines at the schools have cleared up more quickly, with students only spending five seconds on each transaction.
The company also said that parents have given the schools explicit consent to use the children’s facial data, and that the students’ faceprints are safely encrypted on the school server. The North Ayrshire council claims 97% of the students or their guardians were agreeable with the new system.
Other advocates for privacy have raised concerns about the use of facial recognition technology on school grounds. Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, told The Guardian that it has been petitioning schools to stop using such software.
“No child should have to go through border-style identity checks just to get a school meal… This is highly sensitive, personal data that children should be taught to protect, not to give away on a whim,” she explained.
While the saga has yet to reach a conclusion, this debate over the use of facial-recognition technology has gone on for several years. As technology progresses, it’s likely more and more of these issues will come to light, and individuals will have to decide for themselves if convenience outweighs privacy.
[via The Guardian, cover image via Msphotographic | Dreamstime.com]
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