back to article Give us your biometric data to get your lunch in 5 seconds, UK schools tell children

Facial recognition technology is being employed in more UK schools to allow pupils to pay for their meals, according to reports today. In North Ayrshire Council, a Scottish authority encompassing the Isle of Arran, nine schools are set to begin processing meal payments for school lunches using facial scanning technology. The …

  1. IGotOut Silver badge

    Really odd...

    How this seems to be a modern issue.

    I went to a school of 1600 pupils and never had to queue for more than a few minutes... even then we just chatted to our mates.

    Oh yeah,back then there was common sense ideas such as staggered breaks and enough staff to serve.

    1. Rich 2 Silver badge

      Re: Really odd...

      It seems that “common sense” is in very short supply these days, in many aspects of day to day life.

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        Re: Really odd...

        The problem with common sense is that it is not, in fact, all that common. (not my original quote, don't know where I got it from - maybe the late Sir PTerry?)

        1. nijam Silver badge

          Re: Really odd...

          > common sense is not common

          Usually attributed to Mark Twain.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Really odd...

        reduce queues and is less likely to spread COVID-19 than card payments and fingerprint scanners,

        Where a mate works their canteen is totally cashless. You pay with your NFC staff ID which is topped up on the intranet (I think). Therefore that method of payment is totally contactless so much less likely to spread Covid and doesn't require giving up your biometrics. They employ quite a few people too.

        1. Lazlo Woodbine

          Re: Really odd...

          Kids lose ID cards, along with pretty much everything else, so we gave up issuing them to anyone below 6th Form.

          We thought of going the NFC route with phones, but we're trying to discourage phone use, not increase it, so we've stuck with fingerprints and regularly cleaning the readers. For any kid that doesn't want their fingerprint storing, that isn't a problem, our canteen staff remember them using their own built in facial recognition brain.

          We have 1,000 kids in school, around 60% have school meals and they're all served in around 20 minutes...

        2. BrownishMonstr

          Re: Really odd...

          When I was in high school, secondary school for you non-Lancashire fellows, about 14 years ago, we used a plastic magnetic stripe card to pay for lunch. We'd top that up with coins, or by giving a cheque to the canteen staff in the morning. They moved to that because it was faster.

          I think after I left, they moved to a finger print reader, instead of the card.

        3. PM from Hell
          Flame

          Re: Really odd...

          I've been using contactless cards like this since pilots in the the 90's its not even new technology. The limiting factor with the early systems was the card cost as they tended to be propriety and expensive. Now standard cards are in use they tend to be multi purpose providing an ID card, door entry access, canteen / vending machine payments, pull printing and even 2FA.

          The multi use reduces the per application cost and the fact you need to carry it around even to get into the building tends to mean that people rarely forget or lose them

          There is absolutely no excuse for capturing bio-metric information for this application and I bet the kids in the school still have a contactless card for other purposes. If using a PIN is a problem on a card then remove that requirement for canteen purchases. I've never worked anywhere where a pin was required for this.

    2. jmch Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Really odd...

      The problem clearly isn't the waiting time....

      "claim the system will help reduce queues and is less likely to spread COVID-19 than card payments and fingerprint scanners"

      I would expect a good fingerprint scanner to return a result in at least 5 seconds, and a contactless card will surely take less. So the claimed improvements will not / cannot improve the waiting time vs theoretical alternatives. So Covid is used as a fear trigger - literally OMG think of the children! Except... why is it that the these are the 'alternatives'?

      Fingerprint scanning has the same privacy / biometric problems as face recognition so is equally as problematic. And cards are really no problem as a covid vector since everyone has their own cards, as long as they are contactless and no pin is required - but why would a pin be required? Would it really be a huge issue if a student ues another student's card?

      It seems to me that it is an issue not of speed or covid but of excessive control.

      At the very least, considering all the privacy implications, the data is (supposed to be) all stored locally, so for a student membership in the low 1000s the possibility of fasle matches are miniscule, and the data is hopefully cleared out after every school year. But even with these safeguards (theoretically) in place, it seems like overkill, and just another slide down the slippery slope.

      1. Roger Greenwood

        Re: Really odd...

        "Would it really be a huge issue if a student ues another student's card?"

        The problem comes when kids start lending each others card around (whether voluntarily or otherwise...). The thumb machine helped reduce (but not eliminate) that where my kids went.

      2. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Really odd...

        The bigger thing is that I bet it doesn't work with masks - you know like the ones that we know reduce transmission.

        I switched to a phone with facial recognition over a fingerprint scanner because I wear gloves alot of the time (wheelchair is much easier to push, and you get through gloves at a serious rate so I use cheap builder's gloves), so it was massively more convenient.

        Then came covid and the associated mask wearing.

        Good thing the pin still works.

        I wonder what happened to the days when the lunch staff knew all the pupils?

    3. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: Really odd...

      When I was at school, we had a facial recognition system already. It was so advanced that it could recognise the food and operate the till too. Also spend the rest of the school day doing other useful stuff (or gossiping)

      This system just seems to be trying to replace the dinner ladies with machines. (yes, the ones I met were all ladies. I'm not sure that blokes would be as effective)

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Really odd...

        Interesting factoid:

        The average person can uniquely recognise and name approximately 150 people.

        I found this to to be true from the time I spent a few months on a sports committee - and that was before I'd even heard of the idea.

        Oh, and I don't think it ever took me as long as 5 seconds.

        1. sabroni Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: The average person can uniquely recognise and name approximately 150 people.

          That sounds like absolute, unadulterated bullshit.

          Got anything to back that up or did you read in on Facebook?

          1. tiggity Silver badge

            Re: The average person can uniquely recognise and name approximately 150 people.

            @sabroni - maybe they were thinking of Dunbar's number ... a well documented thing

            1. sabroni Silver badge
              Unhappy

              Re: maybe they were thinking of Dunbar's number ... a well documented thing

              Maybe. Maybe they were just spreading misinformation.

              I guess we'll never know......

          2. Will Godfrey Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: The average person can uniquely recognise and name approximately 150 people.

            @sabroni

            May I remind you that I personally found this to be a reasonable assessment before hearing about the concept.

            1. sabroni Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: I personally found this to be a reasonable assessment before hearing about the concept.

              That's cool, but I didn't ask whether you think it's reasonable, I wanted some evidence. Sounds like you don't have any.

        2. deadlockvictim Silver badge

          Re: Really odd...

          Eh no.

          Look up Dunbar's Number. It has to do with the average max. no. of people one can interact with at a given time.

          Here is the first line from Wikipedia:

          Dunbar's number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships—relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person. More at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number

          1. sabroni Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: "how each person relates to every other person"

            So, this isn't to do with "identification", it's to do with maintaining personal relationships.

            So, I was right to call this as bullshit, humans are not restricted to identifying 150 people, they can only maintain effective personal relationships with 150 people.

            Thanks for clarifying!

    4. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Really odd...

      > How this seems to be a modern issue.

      This. At my high school the queue was to get in to the dining hall as year groups went in on a rota[1] and it only needed a couple of prefects to check off names from a printed list.

      [1] Whichever year had sports that afternoon went in first. The other year groups then went in groups at 10 minute intervals - and prefects on the queue stopped kids going in too soon and allowed kids into the dining hall in batches so as not to overcrowd the serving area. In other words it was all about queue management and facial recognition wouldn't have made much if any difference. The only face recognition going on was recognition of known trouble makers by prefects!

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Really odd...

        Where I went to school, the trouble makers WERE the prefects.

        But, yes, when it is managed and not a free for all, everything runs smoothly and electronic recognition crap wouldn't have made any difference.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Really odd...

        I'd forgotten I was a prefect - and yes, did occasionally supervise the "dinner" queue.

    5. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Really odd...

      If tedium and complexity were not added to create "value", just what would tech douche bro wankers (and bureaucrats) do with their lives?

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'd be such a troublemaking rebel if I was at school today.

      I'd be such a troublemaking rebel if I was at school today. There's absolutely no way I'd accept using facial recognition for a poxy school lunch, or anything school related.

      And this is someone, who never had detention in the whole of their school years.

      Just shows the amount of control we've given up to authority.

      I still refuse to use the biometric passport scanners for passport control, on the principle they take a new updated photo every time you use them, without my permission. I've always objected and headed under the rope and headed to a 'real person' even when forcefully directed 'herded' by staff to use automated passport control, and to this date, I've never been prevented from doing so. There is no law that forces you to use automated facial recognition passport control and mostly, this alternative non automated method works out quicker.

      Shocking that only 3% objected.

      1. Barrie Shepherd

        Re: I'd be such a troublemaking rebel if I was at school today.

        "Shocking that only 3% objected."

        We don't know what the question was that lead to 97% accepting the proposal.

        I bet it would have been framed in a manner that obfuscated the underlying technology and emphasised the COVID safety.

        It would certainly not have been "Do you agree we can take electronic pictures of your children and store them in a server so they can be accessed to confirm dinner payments." (because we can't be arsed to do anything less invasive)

        1. PM from Hell

          only 3% objected

          There is a fundamental difference between Scotland and England.

          In Scotland central and local government have a high degree of trust, there is an inbuilt assumption that the government is benevolent and has the best interests of its citizens at heart. This is why there is already a ScotGov ID card in general use for all ages which can be used to access a large variety of services (I believe this could even be used for school dinners).

          Compare that to the view of the UK government where there is a general distrust of both motivation and action.

          1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

            Re: only 3% objected

            This is why there is already a ScotGov ID card in general use for all ages which can be used to access a large variety of services (I believe this could even be used for school dinners).

            In my council area children pay for their dinners with their "Young Scot" card, which can do lots of other things. As a grown up I have a "National Entitlement Card" which doesn't actually do anything since I let my swimming pool subscription lapse, but which will in due course become my bus pass.

            Neither, however, is an ID card.

        2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

          Re: I'd be such a troublemaking rebel if I was at school today.

          "We don't know what the question was that lead to 97% accepting the proposal."

          The article didn't say, but dollars to donuts it was an opt-out system.

          From the article: "North Ayrshire council said 97 per cent of parents had given their consent for the new system, although some said they were unsure whether their children had been given enough information to make their decision."

          Pro tip - if you are unsure whether you have enough information to make a decision, you don't have enough information to make a decision. Therefore, do not check the box _Agree_, do not check the box _Disagree_. Try to get more information. If you are out of time, let the clock run out and have your decision be registered as _Default_. Most likely the same as _Agree_, but still they don't have a document that says you agree.

          What happens if one of the 3% kids gets in the queue with the scanner?

    7. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Really odd...

      Nearly 2000 in my school in the sixties, we had lunch from 12:40- 2:00pm, two sittings of 40 minutes each with a set menu for each day.

      We paid the dinner money in class on a Monday morning when the register was called out and recieved the meal tickets then.

      Each table of eight had one older boy in charge (boys only school) who made sure all dishes went to the hatch where they were taken and cleaned in the biggest dishwasher I have ever seen.

      Simples!

      I can see FR becoming normalised in schools leading to mission creep, monitoring the kids every step from arrival to end of day, 'For their own benefit and safety' of course.

    8. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
      Holmes

      Nobular arithmetic

      "...and enough staff to serve."

      But how can a poor, downtrodden contractor undercut competitors (including the council's in house service) and make ££££ for its owners if it can't reduce the headcount...? Won't someone please think of the shareholders?!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Holmes

    "less likely to spread COVID-19 than card payments and fingerprint scanners"

    Is covidwashing a proper word, like greenwashing?

    No reason. Just curious.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: "less likely to spread COVID-19 than card payments and fingerprint scanners"

      Card payments don't spread anything. No PIN needed for a Dinner Card. Fingerprint scanners should be illegal, period.

  3. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    WTF?

    On Site storage - really? FFS.

    Yikes. So instead of 1 or more Vendor employed professional sysadmins, a central secured DC and the protection of enormous fines if kids PII is lost they are relying on 65 sites with variable IT security practices and zero cash to spend on it?

    The heads have been hoodwinked. In this case on the schools premises seems like the least safe option.

    I hope the relevant councils have Data Protection insurance!

    1. Fonant

      Re: On Site storage - really? FFS.

      Which covers providing plastic facial surgery for all the children affected, so they can "get a new ID" when their old ID is compromised.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: On Site storage - really? FFS.

      Hoodwinked? Is that how you spell "brown envelope" or "kickback" or "quid pro quo" these days?

    3. rg287 Silver badge

      Re: On Site storage - really? FFS.

      Yikes. So instead of 1 or more Vendor employed professional sysadmins, a central secured DC and the protection of enormous fines if kids PII is lost they are relying on 65 sites with variable IT security practices and zero cash to spend on it?

      The heads have been hoodwinked. In this case on the schools premises seems like the least safe option."

      You're assuming that the alternative is actually a professional sysadmin running a hardened server cluster in a secure DC and not just an open S3 bucket.

      On the one hand, it's encouraging that per-school data is segregated and isolated rather than one mega server storing every child's data, which could then be siphoned in to an ML-training set and make a tempting target for black hats.

      On the other hand, if it's under the counter in the cafeteria by the POS terminal then your risk of theft is much higher. But there's also a fair chance the thief is only going to try and flog it at the car boot or eBay and not realise what they have.

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: On Site storage - really? FFS.

        "it's encouraging that per-school data is segregated and isolated"

        On site servers, but at no point did they say the servers are isolated.

      2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: On Site storage - really? FFS.

        "You're assuming that the alternative is actually a professional sysadmin running a hardened server cluster in a secure DC and not just an open S3 bucket."

        Not quite. I was assuming there was a higher chance of that compared to a random server under the tills. No absolutes!

  4. Mage Silver badge
    Devil

    Part of Remote Biometrics.

    Facial recognition maybe can be used to unlock your own phone, as an alternative, if you choose.

    It's immoral for anything else.

    Public surveillance by UK police, access to recreational facilities in the USA. Subway in Moscow.

    Even if it worked well, but it doesn't.

    The EU has voted to ban remote biometrics of the public (people elected democratically). It will take a while for the sovereign EU nations to enact their own laws. It will include using Facial Recognition on the public.

    Fifty years ago schools admitted (or served) only pupils with dinner tickets. In sensible schools they used the same tickets for bought dinners or free ones. It didn't cause any delay.

    No school should be using this tech. It's even been banned or suspended in some USA and Swedish schools.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Part of Remote Biometrics.

      Not only immoral, but unnecessary complexity and vulnerability as well.

    2. ClockworkOwl
      WTF?

      Peoples Republic of Canteen...

      I think we need to coin a new phrase for this kind of data fetishism: Data Perverts !

      Feel free to suggest an alternative, but I like the slogan:

      Save YOUR KIDS from the DATA PERVERTS!!!

      I mean, it's kinda perverse what they think it's ok to do with these kids data?

    3. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Part of Remote Biometrics.

      I agree. Its massively more intrusive than fingerprints for example because it can work at a distance.

  5. Sykowasp

    Parents - just say no.

    "In a secondary school you have around about a 25-minute period to serve potentially 1,000 pupils"

    That's 40 a minute, 1.5s per pupil. Sure it's pipelined, and possibly superscalar, but this seems mad.

    Yeah, because the combined brainpower of an entire nation of teachers hasn't worked out that they could simply stagger lunch 'hour' by a bit to create a 'lunch 2 hours', or at least extend the serving time to 55 minutes (+>100%) with a 1hr 30 window, with some years teaching over the first or final 30 minute period.

    Sure, logistics of teacher availability (they need a break too) and in secondary schools they teach all years, so the classes still teaching whilst other years are eating, then the eating year needs to come back into class, but the teacher needs a break, that's a difficulty, I can't see how it isn't solvable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "the combined brainpower of an entire nation of teachers"?

      Trouble is, it isn't the teachers. They probably weren't even consulted.

      Don't blame the teachers - It's the Local Education Authority making these decisions.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: "the combined brainpower of an entire nation of teachers"?

        This. People always blame the teachers, as if the teachers are in charge of anything.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: "the combined brainpower of an entire nation of teachers"?

        You're showing your age. LEAs hardly exist now that every school is part of a multi-academy trust. UK schools are basically all private now, with the taxpayer being the only customer in most cases.

        1. Nick Porter

          One sub postmaster's story

          The UK does not have a single education system. There are no academy schools or academy trusts in Scotland where this story hails from. All state schools are owned and operated by local authorities under the overarching authority of Education Scotland.

    2. Mike 137 Silver badge

      "they could simply stagger lunch 'hour' by a bit"

      They used to. When I was at school (admittedly before the flood) we had three consecutive 30 minute sittings.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "they could simply stagger lunch 'hour' by a bit"

        Also a very long time ago we had a fixed seating plan - tables of six, 5th or 6th former in charge of each (no separate 6th form college). Food prepared in batches for each table and shared out by or under supervision of the pupil in charge. No multiple choices, eat what the day's menu was. Any facial recognition was by the senior pupil on the table. If, fr whatever reason, you weren't having school dinner you wouldn't have a table.

    3. John Robson Silver badge

      I can't see how it isn't solvable.

      You could stagger the lunch by an entire lesson.

      So odd numbered years get a 4/2 split and even years get a 3/3 split between morning and afternoon.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Then you would have to pay the outsourced/subcontracted dinner ladies (or whatever the PPP term is for them) for 2 hours.

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          I know right? Can't have that! Far better to spend several million to save a few thousand than actually spend the few thousand to save time.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            But that comes out of a totally different budget - it's even on a different spreadsheet

    4. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      We're gonna need a bigger canteen

      The numbers don't make sense. If they really allow 25 minutes to serve 1000 pupils then assuming an average of 12.5 minutes to queue, eat and tidy stuff away then that's effectively two sittings so they need a dining hall that seats a peak of about 500 people. Even allowing for fast eaters and the ramp up and down at the end it's still around 400 seats. That's a bloody big canteen. I assume land, buildings and upkeep cost less than dinner ladies' in Scotland.

  6. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Nutshell

    So in a nutshell, if your face does not meet a certain criteria, you don't get to eat?

    How is that legal?

    1. Sykowasp

      Re: Nutshell

      Remember these AI systems work fairly well for white people.

      So in the main it'll be denying (or requiring multiple tries) mostly for BAME pupils.

      Knowing the stubbornness of schools, they will probably put these pupils last or segregate them to ensure the processing of faces continues at speed.

      In the real world, parents could stick £15 on a school meal card at the beginning of the week and the pupil can just tap to pay at the end (also the card won't work in the off-license down the road), in the 3s or so the cashier has to add up what you have, enter the figure, get the payment and move on to the next pupil. Covid doesn't last well on surfaces anyway, that's been proven, so all this 'biometrics because covid' is just a screen for future authoritarian rule.

      1. MutantAlgorithm

        Re: Nutshell

        The problem with cards is that they'll get lost, likely multiple times a week if my teenagers are anything to go by! Carrying cash is a never going to be ideal so what are the other options...

        I've covered IT for several schools that have used the Cunninghams fingerprint system and it's always seemed to work pretty well, as far as I can remember it didn't store the actual fingerprint, just encrypted info derived from it.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Nutshell

          >The problem with cards is that they'll get lost, likely multiple times a week if my teenagers are anything to go by!

          My children's cards got them access to the building (e-register) as well as their use as payment cards. They did go through a period when cards got 'lost' - strangely not at school but somewhere between leaving school in the evening and leaving the house to go to school the next morning. The inconvenience of not having a card (and the paying of £5 cash to get a new one) seemed to be sufficient to encourage them to take better care...

        2. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: Nutshell

          Lose your card, you don't eat. And the replacement card comes out of your pocket money.

          I guarantee, it'll only happen a couple of times until the lesson is well learned and cards are treated better than mobile phones.

          1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

            Re: Nutshell

            Stick the card to the phone, squared as many reasons not to lose it (them).

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nutshell

          " it didn't store the actual fingerprint, just encrypted info derived from it."

          Doesn't matter, guess what that identifier identifies?

          That encrypted identifier, is the fingerprint, the point is what ever form the "physical identity" is turned into,it is a personal identification, tied physically to your child.

          And the "system" also must be storing the access keys.

          once key and identity are stolen, game over, unless you want to chop your kids fingers off.

          Facial is even worse, as so many images of people have been shared freely over the net easily combined with other cross referenced data, basically uncontrolled from being inserted into recognition systems, pandora's box is already open. it's a brave new world out there, good luck avoiding authoritarian rulers, I'm nearly out of here anyway so not my problem soon, it's my kids futures I fear!

      2. rg287 Silver badge

        Re: Nutshell

        Remember these AI systems work fairly well for white people.

        So in the main it'll be denying (or requiring multiple tries) mostly for BAME pupils.

        I wonder how it handles identical twins.

        In principle, if it mis-scans the face and charges Fred on George's account and George on Fred's, then that's no issue. But if it scans them both as Fred and blocks whoever has gone second (or runs down the cash in one account so it reports as empty even if the other account is full) then there will be issues.

        I suppose the answer there is a single account per family to which multiple children can be assigned as users, so it doesn't matter if the system records Fred as George or George as Fred, so long as only two meals per day go out.

        Even identical twins have different thumbprints...

      3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Nutshell

        Nah! BAME pupils will be fine. The system will be tuned so that every face is matched to one of the IDs known to the system. If it is the same one for everyone in the queue, so be it.

      4. Insert sadsack pun here

        Re: Nutshell

        "In the real world, parents could stick £15 on a school meal card at the beginning of the week..."

        Call me Leon Trotsky, but seeing as almost everyone in the UK is or has been a schoolkid, and most people have or will have kids that go to school, and we have a childhood obesity crisis aggravated by schoolkids buying junk food at lunchtime...why don't we just skip this payment-and-facial-recognition-at-point-of-sale nightmare and pay for healthy school lunches through taxation?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nutshell

          Well, Winston Churchill said that the best investment was putting milk into babies. Good lunches into school kids would be a way of securing that investment...

          In Japan, the entire culinary tradition of Japan is part of the primary school curriculum; the state ensures that you get a good try of everything that is good about Japanese food. That means they grow up knowing what it's supposed to taste like when done properly. So, kids in Japan can discern good food (healthy or not) from crap food, which lasts into adulthood, which means that suppliers have to be good to be able to sell anything in the first place. It's a virtuous circle. Crap food doesn't sell in Japan - word gets around very quickly.

          We don't do that here, so if some idiot is boiling the cabbage to a pulp or buying terrible apples or manky carrots you're simply told "it's elthy" and chips and beans win. We don't have "food teachers" in primary school, we have the school cook operating on a limited budget.

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: Nutshell

            "Well, Winston Churchill said that the best investment was putting milk into babies."

            And Thatcher took that away, the bitch...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Meh

      Re: Nutshell

      I imagine there is some manual system for the inevitable false negatives. They just have to do what they did before.

      As with other facial recognition applications, false positives are possibly more of a problem. Particularly as twins or related children might often attend the same school.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Nutshell

        Twins probably not an issue, since the accounts will be from the same financial backing.

        1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Nutshell

          So Billy gets two lunches and Bob gets nothing?

          Moving to a world where technology does everything is devolution for humans - if we continue putting all our efforts into AI then in about 5,000 years the machines will be saying that the extinct humans failed to evolve ... "we dug one up and it didn't have a cell phone in the grave, no wonder they disappeared..."

          1. fargoneicehole

            Re: Nutshell

            5000 years is a VERY conservative estimate by the look of things...

      2. nijam Silver badge

        Re: Nutshell

        > I imagine there is some manual system for the inevitable false negatives.

        So, I take it you are a Sci-Fi author, because that sounds pretty far-fetched to me.

      3. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: Nutshell

        "I imagine there is some manual system for the inevitable false negatives. They just have to do what they did before."

        Yes, but the B-queue takes so long that lunch is over before you get through it.

  7. Forget It
    Happy

    Face on a plate

    Much to his Mum and Dad's dismay,

    Horace ate himself one day.

    He didn't stop to say his grace,

    He just sat down and ate his face.

    ...

    https://www.oatridge.co.uk/poems/m/monty-python-horace.php

  8. CountCadaver

    Simpler Solution - Free school meals for all?

    As above, we are the 5th largest economy in the world and yet we can't give kids at a place they are mandated to be, free food and drink at lunchtime?

    The mind boggles...clearly Calvanism never went away (suffering is good for the soul)

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Simpler Solution - Free school meals for all?

      This. How is this so hard? Feed them all and be done with it. They are kids, not enemies of the state.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Simpler Solution - Free school meals for all?

        "not enemies of the state"

        Not necessarily the state's view.

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: 5th largest economy in the world

      Might be 26th. Depends what you count,

      Anyway, nothing to do with size of economy. It's simply an overly complex solution, not needed and ought to be illegal. So should fingerprint scanners in schools. I'm appalled.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: 5th largest economy in the world

        Fingerprint scanners are a reasonable idea

        They store a hash of a single print, ie. they aren't useful for implementing a final solution to the problem of the gingers among us.

        They can't be lost (except that kid that got a 'D' in woodwork)

        The payment can't be donated to Gripper Stebson (showing my age!)

    3. cantankerous swineherd

      Re: Simpler Solution - Free school meals for all?

      death to the bureaucrats. the bureaucrats see it differently however.

  9. Wellyboot Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Informed consent?

    >>>North Ayrshire council said 97 per cent of parents had given their consent for the new system, although some said they were unsure whether their children had been given enough information to make their decision.<<<

    I'd like to see the parental permission slip used for this, did it mention a facial recog system or merely a new system? I'm quite certain it didn't offer any alternative other than not feeding the children.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Informed consent?

      That's a fairly persuasive alternative.

  10. Splurg The Barbarian

    Not much of a surprise

    Our council in Scotland, will not let secondary school pupils buy school dinners without a Young Scot Card.

    Now prior to joining secondary school my son was given a presentation about how great the Young Scot card is and all the great discounts you can get. They weren't told that the card number was a UCRN ( Unique Citizen Reference Number) funnily enough neither were the parents, the privacy/tracking aspect was not mentioned. My son & his felloww.pupils were all 11&12 years of age. This is under the age at which an individual is considered able and competent to consent to data collection under GDPR.

    The Scot Gov have already had to climb down on a UCRN linking all Gov contact, Council contact, health records and so on. This system seems to be ID card & citizen tracking by the back door by focussing on kids and telling them about freebies. Funnily enough when questioned about this and whether or not they broke GDPR etc they no further questions cancelled his Young Scot Card.

    Too many parents just go "OK" without question to these schemes, much like the general population with any privacy issues full stop.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Not much of a surprise

      Seems to be? Subtle, rhetorical, sarcastic understatement, right?

    2. CountCadaver

      Re: Not much of a surprise

      Yep yet mention any hint that the Scottish Govt under the SNP are building an authoritarian Orwellian surveillance state that East Germany would baulk at and your denounced as a "yoon traitor", "delusional", "doing down Scotland" etc (See R/Scotland as a prime example of SNP groupthink and how rapidly any criticism of the SNP/Scotgov is downvoted or the poster abused.....)

      Perhaps the First Minister should go the whole hog and publish a "yellow book" of approved politicial thinking.......

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: SNP are building an authoritarian Orwellian

        Mere amateurs compared to Tory plans.

        1. CountCadaver

          Re: SNP are building an authoritarian Orwellian

          Personally reckon in terms of surveillance and authoritarianism they are just 2 different approaches to the same end point....

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Not much of a surprise

        "East Germany would baulk at"

        Or envy.

        1. CountCadaver

          Re: Not much of a surprise

          I think the East Germans would think we are going too far....

          Wonder if we have more or less CCTV than the chinese.....

    3. nijam Silver badge

      Re: Not much of a surprise

      > ... presentation about how great the Young Scot card is ...

      Just how racist is the Scottish Assmbly, might I enquire?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Not much of a surprise

        >Just how racist is the Scottish Assmbly, might I enquire?

        Honest question from an ex-pat with no skin in the game - I was confused why our Aberdeen office had a strict rule against sportswear until it was explained to me.

        Presumably the independants aren't big fans of the Conservative and Unionist party. On the other hand the wee-frees aren't full of Christian love and understanding for the left-footers.

        So when the SNP gets to rule over an independent Scotland - who goes to the Gulags/takes advantage of Eu freedom of movement ?

  11. Sam Adams the Dog

    The only relevant question....

    The only relevant question is how many seconds it would take to get their lunch without facial recognition.

    1. nijam Silver badge

      Re: The only relevant question....

      > The only relevant question is how many seconds

      My recollection is that nobody wanted seconds of schools dinners. Or firsts, in many cases.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The only relevant question....

        Quality of school dinners must have gone down since my time. Either that or you were a fussy eater. (See my previous post ablut the idea of choice.)

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: The only relevant question....

          Gone down from the height of 70s cuisine that was the Spam Fritter ?

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: The only relevant question....

            Oh, spam fritters, pilchards in tomato, and whatever the hell angel delight was.

            It's a miracle I survived.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: The only relevant question....

              Between lead in petrol, Findus crispy pancakes and Sunny Delight - I'm assuming those of us born in the 70s are basically immune to chemistry.

  12. wiggers

    Twins?

    My class had three pairs of identical twins. How does facial recognition cope better with that than a contactless card?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Twins?

      The identical twins have got it made.

      The system will not be able to reliably tell the difference between identical twins. So, if Bob gets his lunch and his brother Dan's, and Dan goes hungry, then Dan can make a legitemate complaint that his biometrics, his data, have not been processed properly or accurately (they ****ed up, to his material cost).

      That is a breach of the law, and Dan is owed some restitution and the company can fined.

      Thing is, who can tell what actually happened? You can't do Bob for fraud because he can easily deny it and there's no proof the contrary. So, no action can be taken against Bob.

      Then Bob can do the same thing next week, take 2 chicken wraps for lunch, and it's Dan's turn to not take the rap.

      So long as the twins aren't fingerprinted or wildly befreckled, it's foolproof.

      And I think if we end up talking about fingerprinting school kids to ensure each gets their correct lunch (or anything else that is related to what you are, not who you are), we're talking about the kind of world I don't think anyone would want to live in.

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: Twins?

        "... the kind of world I don't think anyone would want to live in."

        Hard to reconcile that with the ones who are actively building that world.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Twins?

          Indeed. It's a system that either teaches identical twins they can get away with something, or teaches them that it's a disadvantage to be an identical twin. Neither are good.

          There are other examples where "identical twin" (at least in some senses) is a right bastard of a problem. There was some years ago (quite possible in The Register) an article about the problems one bloke continually had with the UK's credit check system. This system makes an assumption that your full name, place and date of birth are unique, and does not use any other identifiers for additional discernment between people.

          Imagine how shit your life can be then if it turns out there's someone else born in the same hospital on the same day as you whose parents gave them the exact same name as your own?

  13. fidodogbreath Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Makes sense from a gov perspective

    If you condition them to passive tracking from childhood, they will be easier to control for the rest of their lives.

  14. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Technology costs money and always causes problems from time to time.

    It would be much easier and cost less if we just returned to the days when the schools just fed all the kids lunch.

    If this proposal is a good scheme then do you think that they will use it in Westminster or Downing Street?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Technology costs money and always causes problems from time to time.

      Yes but then how would certain well connected people and their supporters continue to fleece the public funds and afford their offshore tax havens?

      Come now! Be reasonable man!

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Technology costs money and always causes problems from time to time.

      If they were forced to use face recognition to count votes in Parliament, it would be banned by the end of the week.

  15. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    In my day ...

    ... bullies intercepted a certain number of students and relieved them of their lunch money. Reducing the subsequent demand on the serving staff.

    It was a good system. I don't know why we gave up on it.

  16. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge

    enhances the pupil experience

    enhances the pupil experience using innovative technology

    That rolls off the tongue soo much better than "Introducing a police state by normalizing it at a young age while most children cannot understand the consequences of these sort of actions"

  17. andrewmm

    Finger prints

    My kids, 10 years ago,

    had to use finger print readers to pay for lunch ..

    1984 ....

    1. Rob Daglish Bronze badge
      Coat

      Re: Finger prints

      Don't be silly, 10 years ago was 2011...

      err...

  18. Bartholomew Bronze badge
    Megaphone

    Won't someone think of the children!

    Oh no they are, teaching them when they are young to just accept this as being normal.

    This is right up there with facebook (ciabook did apologise for the psychological experiments on users) and google (well nothing needs to be said about the log everything forever).

  19. Richard 12 Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Free school meals

    Would be far cheaper.

    Everyone gets a meal, nobody has their lunch money stolen, gets bullied for being poor (or rich) or whatever.

    There's a lot of situations where the cost of collecting a fee greatly exceeds the cost of providing the service. School dinners is likely one of them - the budget is around £1.50 per meal, after all.

    But of course, we can't risk someone getting seconds without paying for them, no matter the cost.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Free school meals

      Even cheaper if you add in the cost of administering free school meals, the armies of social workers etc to do assessments on who needs them etc

      Presumably anybody who doesn't need free school meals is already opted out because little Trixie-Blossom can only eat vegan gluten-free organic moonbeams

  20. Barrie Shepherd

    Facial Recognition and Doppler Radar are the biggest technology evils of current times.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      > Doppler Radar

      A robust stance from the Wind Shear supporters there

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is Appalling

    David Vs Goliath

    Biometrics have a non-trivial failure rate, especially just one measure such as "face".

    In this case the people most impacted by it going wrong are children, and they're the least empowered to take up the matter with the "grown ups". Bear in mind that there will be a lot of "grown ups" who will have invested a lot of personal face, politics, other people's money and their own professional reputations into it, all of whom will be insisting that the system is accurate and flawless. Exactly how is a child supposed to secure redress?

    Granted that there needs to be some child-friendly secure way for them to get their lunch without their dinner money being pinched, etc, etc. but this system sounds like it'd be too much like a child's word against a lot of adults.

    False Problem

    Furthermore, this is a solution to a problem that need not exist. The problem is that someone has decided that there should be a checkout. Instead of having a failure prone biometric checkout, do away with the need for a checkout altogether. A perfectly good alternative is that all parents pay money into the school dinner fund (or direct from social support as appropriate), and all kids get an set share of lunch. It's not like this is a 2* Michelin Restaurant with an extensive menu and price range for a 3 course meal with wine varying between £300 and £1000. It's a school dinner; if there is a choice at all they're all going to cost more or less the same. It's easy enough for the teachers to know who officially is bringing in a packed lunch, so they simply don't get admitted to the dinner hall in the first place.

    Or why not just have tax payer free lunches? It amounts to pretty much the same thing anyway...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is Appalling

      Addition at the end there: tax payer funded free lunches

      I am so cross I wasn't even typing properly...

  22. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    Nothing makes sense

    The comments so far do a good job of highlighting the most important objections. But it only takes a few seconds of thought to realize *none* of the statements made by Council and/or CRB Cunninghams makes *any* sense. Here's one example:

    "Additionally, the time taken to be served at till points is a common complaint and potentially one of the reasons why pupils opt to go out [of] school grounds for lunch."

    Zero potential! When I was in school it needed two minutes to pay at the till, but five minutes (each way) to drive to the fast food restaurant, where it also needed two minutes to pay. Common complaint ... what does that even mean? How many things are there to complain about? The food is bad, the food is cold, the lines are long, and I can't think of anything else. So I guess time taken to be served is one of the top three complaints.

  23. This post has been deleted by its author

  24. cantankerous swineherd

    doling out school meals was a "problem" solved about 50 years ago. cue loads of chin stroking about how it's a really difficult problem. (not, unless you really want it to be)

  25. Unbelievable!
    Boffin

    Ex-Employee of a sister company here. There's a lot more that this article doesn't touch on.

    Big brother watch (err.. "BBW"?) are a little late.

    .Capita and its 'Sims' product have been taking individual student photos for a very very long time. Which were, and are, used in schools as identity.

    .Biostore have been capturing student fingerprints since 2005.

    .Cunninghams have been operating cashless catering for students for a long time.

    .EasyTrace was another.

    There are many more companies involved already that go unnamed nor acknowledged.

    There is an incestuous relationship between these companies. Like all data dependent companies, the data is all export > conversion > import when changing to a new solution provider, and all that data is based on a unique identifier.

    Just one field, and all the other associated data goes with it.

    Example: Sims has fields for passport numbers, parents marital status etc.

    Data (biometric or otherwise) is exported and imported into systems, therefore exposed to a lot more 3rd parties.

    Cunninghams doesn't see the big deal because It's another day to them. They integrate with all kinds of systems. Salesforce for example..

    What's more.. a lot of the data end-users (solution providers) are owned by the same parent company. Cunninghams et al are a VERTICAL as the parent group call it.

    @Register can contact me if they want.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ex-Employee of a sister company here. There's a lot more that this article doesn't touch on.

      for all the fuickwits giving the "it's encrypted" excuse, read the above, it doesn't matter, it's still an identifier with cross references.

    2. hoola Silver badge

      Re: Ex-Employee of a sister company here. There's a lot more that this article doesn't touch on.

      Yup, trace them back and you get to:

      Jonas Software in Canada

      Then to some sort of asset management outfit known as

      Constellation Software

      The company at the very end of the list is probably the most scary

      MetricsFirst

      "MetricsFirst was born in 2015 with the goal of connecting data from a clubs myriad of different vendors to provide insights that can influence decision making, improve overall governance, and improve member experience at private clubs."

      The trouble is that too many just don't understand this, grumble a bit and that is is. Politician and schools buy into all the marketing bull and so the process goes on and on.

  26. mantavani
    Joke

    "Contactless payment using facial recognition is very fast and efficient and gives time back to pupils to spend with friends or at lunchtime activities."

    Gosh yes, because my children are so time poor.

  27. Wolfclaw

    Oh hell no, this is just the start of acceptance through the back door. In my day a simple register, pick up a token, pay for 2 course meal was good enough, anything extra, pay cash or contactless now. Covid is being used as any excuse for more biometric data collection and unwarranted surveillance.

  28. Bill Michaelson

    I can see from your face that you're a kid...

    ...so here's lunch. Don't mention it.

  29. Jonjonz

    What the F*ck, any fool knows if you have a mostly captive group of humans, whose only choice is to eat in your mess hall, that you totally dispense with cash registers and paying that just slows a line down. You just pile yearly fee on them. Tough tomatoes if they miss a meal, or choose to not eat.

    Every school I went to growing up did it this way. If it was a private school it came out of your tuition. If it was pubic they just did not even dick around with any charges, if you were a kid in the cafeteria you got fed, no charge. Compared to the walnut paneling budget for administrators the cost to do that is pin money in most school systems.

  30. Potemkine! Silver badge

    "Mad World" is a song from 1982. Things have gone so worse since, I don't know how we could qualify today's World.

  31. hoola Silver badge

    Missing something!

    So the claim that children cannot remember PINs and this is justification to use facial recognition.

    This is just normalising the use of data-harvesting technologies at the lowest level. These children will now accept that facial recognition and biometrics are the only option for even the most mundane of use cases.

    The excuse that they cannot remember a PIN is just pathetic. Remembering things is part of life and a PIN is just one of them. When fingerprint biometrics was introduced at my kids school for meal payments it slowed things down. Previously they just waved a card at the reader and a picture of the pupil was displayed on the cashiers terminal.

    The argument that it reduces the risk of spreading Covid is just total bollocks and is being used to add a veneer or respectability to scheme. These people are in close contact with each other all day. Using an NFC card is no more risky than this and less so than a finger print.

    What is even more scary is what you find when you do some quick and dirty research

    CRB Cunningham and Cunninghams EPOS systems have the same head office

    Both are part of Jonas Software

    https://jonassoftware.com/our-companies

    The head office is in Canada

    They in turn have a parent company "Constellation Software" who look to just be a shell for collecting IP and profit.

    https://www.csisoftware.com/overview

    If one is being cynical (I am) this will be a really tasty data set to sell on to companies developing facial recognition.

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