back to article Brussels quizzes UK on school kiddyprinting

The European Commission has raised "significant concerns" with Britain over schools that collect and store children's fingerprints. Officials in Brussels have written to the government after a father in Scotland, who objected to such a policy at his daughter's school, complained. Chris Halliday, whose case was first covered by …


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  1. ratfox



    No seriously, schools fingerprinting the kids?


  2. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    This is a tricky one ...

    my sons school use fingerprint readers as an alternative to cash for the canteen ... good idea behind the scheme (no need for kids to carry money to get bullied for). It's obvious they just take a hash of the fingerprint, and store that - the actual stored data would be useless to anyone wanting to recreate a fingerprint from their hash ... I've no problem with these systems.

    However, reading the press (which makes you realise how bad UK "journalism" is) it's not clear what other schools are doing. I get the impression (no pun intended) that some are really inky-dabbing kids, and keeping actual prints on file. Which would worry me, immensely. We have no idea how many people are behind bars because of planted prints.

    1. Bumpy Cat

      Not tricky at all

      So when your son is 18, will you trust him with money then? Or is there still a chance he will be "bullied for money"? I'm rather glad I didn't go to school in the UK if it's such a pit of feral savagery. Where is your backbone?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      The hash isn't magic. It's a standard algorithm applied to the fingerprint. If that hash ends up being logged by the government, then you child is forever identifiable. If fingerprint hashes become standard for id, your child can't change his fingerprint if it is published.

      Do you absolutely trust your government for the rest of your child's life? Do you absolutely trust your school's security?

      What the hell is wrong with a pin code?

      What is the difference between "inky-dabbing" and logging the hash?

  3. Kubla Cant Silver badge


    "a fingerprint was required to use the scool canteen"

    Well, of course, that's entirely proportional. You wouldn't want unauthorised kids getting obese on the turkey twizzlers, would you?

  4. Cunningly Linguistic

    "scool canteen"

    How ironically unfortunate.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What was actually stored?

    Were they actually /fingerprinting/ children or just taking some hashed code that would allow their prints to be matched for access?

    If the latter, what kind of detail is there in the information?

    I can see that potentially lower-grade systems/information might be used for a school where the population is at best going to be a couple of thousand compared to a system designed for full public use. Information could be dirtied to the point where it was limited use elsewhere

    Was there information stored that would allow the recreation of an actual fingerprint, was there information stored that would allow a fingerprint to be faked for access elsewhere on uncompromised readers on someone else's systems, was there information stored that would allow access to be achieved on other systems if they were compromised, or is the stored information only meaningful on the school's systems?

    As for the other side of things - the possibility of the data being used by the police, etc to check data from crime scenes against, is the data going to be usably stored anywhere other than the school systems?

    How many schools would be required to give up data to make a search worthwhile, and given how much any school would complain (especially if surrendering data wasn't legal), who'd be the first force to try that?

    There's the standard paranoid argument "But what if a totalitarian government came to power and required all the data to be handed over?", though presumably, if they could do that, they could equally just require prints to be taken even if they weren't already stored.

    Of course, if a government demanded everyone be printed, at that point the noble Freedom Fighters the paranoid worriers fantasise about being part of would rise up and overthrow the Evil government to stop their prints being taken.

    Though if they could do that, why not do it at the point where the fingerprint databases actually started being abused?

  6. Tron Bronze badge

    "scool canteen"

    Let's hope El Reg hacks can use biometrics to log in, as they may well have problems typing their passwords accurately.

    C-. Must try harder.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    You need a fingerprint to access the canteen and library? You're wasting all that money on biometric tech when you could be maybe buying new books or some decent food?

    Reminds me what they did in my high school, forced us all to shell out a fiver for an ID card that we used to pay for meals with. Why? I don't know, the only reason I can think of is so they could track who buys what, but surely nobody actually cares which individual bought all the Freddos?

  8. cosymart

    scool indeed

    Go to the bottom of the class!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Bugger me!

    Any more of this and I might start to think that the EU is a Good Thing after all.

    1. Tigra 07
      Black Helicopters

      RE: JustaKOS

      There's more chance of the EU having it's accounts not written off next year for amounts going missing or being imbezzeled ;-)

      1. Jimbo 6

        Just say NO to titles

        There's now a wonderful fantasy scenario in my head, of 'Hardcase' Ireland and the rest of the PIIGS Gang, bullying Germany for its lunch money in the EU playground...

        "Whaddya mean, ye've only got 20 billion in yer pocket today ?" >Thwack< "Ye better get us some more tomorra !"

  10. Qu Dawei

    Accountancy convenience or real help to improve schooling?

    Ok, so I wonder what was the cost of all this, and was it the best way of using that money, given that schools are often said by many to be short of funds for other things that are directly concerned with education. This seems to be an exercise in administrative convenience, but I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise.

  11. Jean-Paul


    Story where there isn't one. Funny though how this appears every so often. Well over a year ago this was being discussed on LBC with a lot of high rate parents phoning in.

    The facts are;

    1. The "print" is not up to police or border agency standards

    2. The "print" is not even stored

    3. Yes it gets checked against a hash

    4. It was really cheap to implent, must be when you think about and Chinese laptops have them in.

    5. Children don't forget their fingers unlike smart cards, cash, etc.

    It is a good system and very handy. Brings the queues down as well. Come to think about it I think it should be mandatory for all women of all ages. What is it with them that you can be in a queue for a til for ages, then it is their turn, and only them they start opening their handbag to find a monster of a wallet that has more picture than money and then they fold their notes to store as well then unfold and count the pennies. Fingerprint them all.

    1. bill 36

      its because

      They forget that they have to pay for everything in the trolley with the folding stuff that grows on trees!

      But to be fair, many are distracted at the checkouts by the magazines offering to shed 56lbs of ugly fat in 2 seconds and the chocolate bars, quite a dilemma!

    2. Chris Parsons Bronze badge

      high rate?

      I love it....irate!

  12. Steve 13
    Black Helicopters

    hashing doesn't make it acceptable

    If the system can consistently recreate the hash from a finger, then it could be used to compare the hash of a print taken from a crime scene and identify the owner.

    Okay, it might not be up to full police forensics reliability and the chances of a false positive may be higher, but that makes it worse doesn't it!

    Unchecked and assuming the worst, over a couple of decades of police harvesting, they get the psuedo print of every adult local to their area, which is probably a pretty high proportion of the population.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You have an over-active imagination

      I'm not one to roll over and let the state - or the police force - do whatever it wishes, but, really, of all the things to worry about ... the obstacles to making this a practical reality are really quite great.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Ban fingerprinting at schools!

    Bring in the perv-o-tron machines !!!

  14. Gwaptiva


    Fingerprinting kids so they can pay for lunch or check out a book?? What the flaming fuck are these people thinking? That's just Wrong!

    "Oh, it'll stop kids being bullied out of their lunch money"

    So now we can expect a wave of kids being bullied out of their fingers?


  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not so bad, but...

    My children use the fingerprinting system to pay for school meals and it is really convenient for them and us. However, on several occasions the readers have mis-read and debited money from other people's accounts - so the system isn't that reliable.

    Also of concern would be spreading infection and disease - some kids may have an illness, all the kids use the same reader, most kids eat with their fingers.

    1. /dev/me

      Kids: wash your hands after you've used the public fingerprint reader.

      And the next generation of stand-up comedians will joke:

      I always wash my hands after I use a public fingerprint reader. So how come they say it's a source of infection? Oh! Because I wash my hands *after* I use the fingerprint reader.

  16. Winkypop Silver badge

    Godwin's Law

    Even the Nazis weren't so mean as to...

  17. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

    cost, convenience, security, privacy

    Fingerprinting in schools is generally used in one of three ways - to pay for lunches, to withdraw library books and (not so much) in electronic registers.

    School canteens are often run by the same companies who run national cafe/coffee shop chains. Anyone who has one of these companies run their work canteen will tell you that part of the deal for them coming in and setting up a cafe in your workplace is that they won't take cash. Maybe it's because they don't trust their employees, maybe it's because cash handling is costly, but the fact is, they have a captive audience, so they can afford to do it. If they demanded fingerprints to use the canteen at the workplace they'd probably find substantial reaction against the idea, so generally you use your swipecard. Schoolkids tend to be more compliant.

    Libraries and registration systems are a different story, but I suspect the key drivers for these systems in schools are companies pushing their latest product. So, whether these systems bring a greater level of convenience to the process depends I guess on whether you're a vendor or a customer.

    My objection to these systems is primarily philsophical (not to downplay the other concerns raised). Kids are being conditioned to place more of their personal information in the hands of strangers and authorities without question. They are treated (and begin to think of themselves) as simply bits of data in a system. It's that passive acceptance of intrusive authority I don't think is healthy for us.

    I can't accept that it is valid for kids to be fingerprinted without the parents consent. At my son's school they did not ask us, but he was sharp enough to keep his hands in his pockets and say "no thanks" when they were all herded in to registration. We had a word with them, and they made alternative arrangements for him to use the library, so it's worth making your objections known informally before setting to with a full-blown court case. :)

    1. a_c_g_t


      I am already in that stage with Tavistock College!!

  18. a_c_g_t

    Biometric ID

    My childs school had this implemented 6 months ago. And have been to the school to

    1) Remove my childs data from the system

    2) Made them implement another system

    This is just the tip of the iceberg of what's going on in state schools at the moment. Those in schools who implement such systems are at best uninformed about the actual requirements and at worst ignoring and bending fundemental Law.

    My major concers have been aired at the school such as.

    There has been no option given for those parents who wish to OPT out.

    There has been little if no information with regards to the collection of "NON government mandatory data items

    I mean when I found out that my childs photo,gender etc where routinely uploaded to a 3rd party I was horrfied.

    I could write a whole book on how badly managed the implementation of Tavistock biometric system was but I won't here.

    Suffice to say "I am watching them with eagle eyes"

  19. andy gibson

    To those who don't have kids or work in Education

    Maybe you should STFU and go back to your Daily Mail. You obviously know nothing judging by your rants and lack of first hand knowledge on the subject.

    So stop being armchair "experts" and only come back with an opinion if either of the two options in the title apply to you.

    I could go on about how fingerprinting saves a huge amount of time and money, and how you're more than welcome to have a browse through our school's lost property box and see the amount of expensive clothes and other items never get collected, and how many pupils need special "loans" to buy lunch because they've lost their money (or spent it on sweets on the way into school) but I simply can't be bothered.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      And maybe you also should STFU.

      Whether we have kids in education or not, the principle is the same.

      No one has any right to take fingerprints or any other biometric data without permission and to do it to kids who probably feel they HAVE to do it is just wrong!!!

      You DO go on about it saving a lot of time. Do you actually think of any alternative that could be implemented?

      Why the hell is everything justified as making life easier. It doesn't for the user only for those too lazy to think of an alternative method and there are many.

      Perhaps as a parent you could actually teach your child the value of money and how to deal with genunine bullying rather than "protecting" them from real life which they will need to deal with at some stage of their life.

      God, no wonder we have a bunch of wimps running this country.

    2. Chris Parsons Bronze badge

      My, aren't we Mr Grumpy

      I think STFU is a bit over the top for people with whose views you disagree. I also think you are making a bit of a leap of faith assuming that none of the posters are parents or in education. I think, finally, you should perhaps follow your own advice to others. Thank you.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    @andy gibson

    WTF are you on about.

    What in hell does lost property have anything to do with fingerprinting?

    And you make a HUUUGE assumption that these are armchair experts. From where do you get your information?

    If there is a problem with money being extracted by bullying there are far simpler solutions which do not require the taking and storing of personal biometric information.


  21. JP19


    Why don't they just rivet those big yellow (rfid I presume) plastic tags to kids ears like they do with cows and have done with it?

  22. BioTube


    When I was in school, we used PINs for the same reason(except one year, but that was at a school not notable for sanity). There's no excuse for using biometrics.

  23. Dog Faced Boy

    Conditioning kids?

    When the government wished to introduce ID cards into our system it wasn't very popular, and during this time I was a follower of the No2ID website which reported fingerprinting in schools (as well as other invasive measures) and in my opinion, the scheme was nothing to do with reducing school costs or stopping bullies.

    My take was that if they cannot implement ID Cards now, why not introduce an ID system to kids, so they will be brainwashed to the system from an early age, so by the time they are adults, when ID cards are reintroduced, these adults will be so conditioned to biometric ID schemes that they will not put up a fight against the ID card and will see nothing wrong with it.

    ID cards may be defeated for now, but they will resurface again. People mistakenly think the government takes a short view on things (and in some cases they do), but it is important to note that certain issues definitely get the long view treatment.

    As an example of the long view, our local authority has implemented a regeneration plan for the local area that will finally be completed in 2065. The government will also have some very long term plans, and conditioning children at an early age to ID schemes and biometric schemes, could be one of them.

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