At the Highlands campus of White Plains Middle School in New York, students are now using finger scans in order to receive a school lunch. Tapped as a way to make school lunch lines move faster, many parents and privacy advocates are worried about the students’ identities.
“People were a little nervous, but they’re not in the cafeteria when we are trying to serve 373 students at a time — to get them all seated, fed and out for recess especially with the kinds of things they were using before,” the principal, Diana Knight, said.
In the end, only five of the more than 1,000 students opted out, and the family of one cited germs, not privacy abuses, as a concern, Knight said.
The rest of the students can now press a forefinger to an image pad to pay for their food. The older methods, swiping a debit card or entering a personal identification number, or PIN, also remain available.
The school is using technology from School-Link Technologies, which claim a fingerprint can’t be made of the information because the data is saved as a set of numbers. It remains to be seen as to whether the information can be reverse engineered to get the fingerprint.
Michigan and Iowa currently have laws prohibiting the use of biometrics among school students unless ordered to do so by a court of law. The United Kingdom currently has several schools using biometrics for lunches as well as in the library and for registration. The EU is using it to identify refugees. Hong Kong, however, has deemed the use of biometrics on students as too invasive and scrapped their program several years ago.
The New York Civil Liberties Union for the Lower Hudson Valley and the EFF question the use of such technology as a means of softening up children for eventual, ubiquitous use of biometrics as surveillance tools.
“It’s a new technology so people are a little bit uncertain about it,” she said. “But I think as it becomes more widely used — and they see that some of what they’re concerned about isn’t coming to be regarding privacy and how the finger scans are used — I think people will become a lot more comfortable with it.”
And this is precisely the point. If you force people to use these technologies when they are small and cannot understand the implications of said technologies, they will think it’s cool and not understand why others are so concerned. Biometric identification will become widespread, but only because it will become required, forcing those who wish to opt-out, no option at all.