Thursday, 17 September 2015

Snaith School to harvest fingerprints from children

NOTE: There is a follow up to this article here.

Yesterday I received a letter from my children's school saying they 'require' the fingerprints of the children so that they can operate a cashless system in the canteen. Here is my response, please share far and wide:

Harwinn House, Main Street
Great Heck
DN14 0BQ
Tel: 01977 661430
Mob: 077233 81002
Regd. No. 05967347
17 September 2015

Jean Pickerill
The Snaith School
Pontefract Rd,
DN14 9LB

Dear Ms Pickerill,

I am writing in response to the letter I received yesterday about the new cashless system you are set to introduce for the children on October 12th. I will certainly not be giving permission for my children to have their fingerprints registered on your scheme. In fact I don’t even feel that I have a moral right to give such a permission on their behalf if they are deemed too young to do so themselves. They are not my property, they are people.

My reason for writing to you is not my attitude to my own children but far more importantly my deep concerns about the very existence of such a scheme in , of all places, a school. First of all I would like to make clear that I do not impute any sinister motive to the school in the implementation of the system. My concern is that with the best will in the world and the most diligent application of data protection rules the very existence of biometric records of school children (I can barely believe I just had to type that phrase) is terribly dangerous.

During the German occupation of France during the Second World War, municipal and school records which had been collected for legitimate reasons and carefully stored away were used for perverted purposes by the occupying Nazis. Huge numbers of people were deported, robbed, used as slaves, for medical experiments and executed.

I don’t doubt that as your letter states, the fingerprint is stored as an algorithm but this is pretty academic. The fact is that unless it were possible to recognise the child from his or her fingerprint using the system it would be useless. Imagine the consequences for the entire cohort of children if this technology and information were to fall into the hands of those who wished to do down certain groups of them. Especially given that the school and other State institutions routinely collect information about the ethnicity and religion of the kids. (I don’t co-operate with that either by the way.)

It is all very well that there is no public record of my Children’s race or religion and that you won’t take their fingerprints but even so, the very lack of this information in relation to a small group could, if the records fell into the wrong hands, be used to mark that group out as trouble makers.

Furthermore by implementing this system on a cohort of impressionable young kids you would be conditioning them to give biometric information away willy-nilly before they are old enough to consent to it themselves. We are already one of the most routinely CCTV photographed populations in the World. Surely it is my job as a parent and yours as an educator to warn children of the dangers of this kind of intrusion. Not to soften them up for a life of being snooped on by the State.

I have nothing against a chashless system in principle. They have been operated in numerous workplaces over many years using a card and PIN system.

Therefore I implore you to abandon this new scheme altogether, substituting a card and pin system in its place or at least delay it so that the case against it may be put to other parents who may not have considered these points fully before giving consent. At the very least I would ask you to circulate this letter to all parents giving it equal prominence to the letter I received yesterday.

I shall also be writing to local MPs and media and I shall tell them as I tell you now that other than on this issue I am very impressed with Snaith School and that I would recommend it to anyone.

Best Regards

NOTE: There is a follow up to this article here.

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