In 2007 a biometric cashless catering system was introduced in school. This speeds up payment time and reduces queuing at our tills, and has proved massively successful.
The school is in a position to use a biometric database to make certain other parts of the school’s ICT easier. We are now able to use the biometric system to make logging into printers instantaneous, for example.
What this means is that when students send print jobs to certain printers, instead of having to type in user names and passwords, which could be forgotten or compromised (stolen), students will now be able to log in by simply putting their finger on the scanner. This will give them instant access to the jobs they have sent for print.
The reason we have deferred printing is two-fold. Firstly we can save paper because print jobs sent in error aren’t automatically printed. Also staff can send sensitive information to print on a machine some way from their desk, without that information appearing right in front of students. This biometric solution helps staff and students log in quicker and easier.
The location of the biometric database has not changed – it is still held in the school, and is not networked to anywhere outside our school grounds. Nobody else can access the information except us and our ICT support partners (Durham County Council ICT staff and the company that supplies us with the biometric software).
The biometric cashless catering system has served us very well, and this development is the next logical step in the use of the data we have at our disposal. However it is right at this point that we re-iterate some questions and answers that may dispel myths and misinformation surrounding fingerscan systems used within schools.
Is the fingerscan stored in a database?
No, the ‘image’ of an individual’s fingerscan is never stored in a database or computer file. When a finger is scanned the image is converted into a mathematical representation, a ‘template’. The template records certain features of the finger surface, and cannot be converted back into the original image. Only the template is stored in the database.
Could the police use this stored information to identify and prosecute someone?
The amount of detail recorded in the template is inadequate for forensic purposes and is not admissible as evidence in a court of law for the purpose of identification of an individual.
If the government decided to create a national database of fingerprints, is it technically possible for them to take this data from all the schools?
The system works exceptionally well when dealing with small groups of people within a range of a few hundred to a few thousand. During your child’s enrolment a new template is created and compared against those already in the database. This is a controlled environment and only enough detail is stored to distinguish this group of people from each other. There is not enough information stored about the characteristics of the fingerprint scan to scale this up to a national database.
When my child leaves the school how can I be certain his or her fingerscan data is removed?
Only one copy of the template is stored in the database and when the individual is deleted from the system the template is completely removed.
How do I know the school will store my child’s fingerscan data securely?
All the fingerscan data captured is the property of the school and is only stored on one computer within the school. Biometric data is classified as personal information under the Data Protection Act and therefore must be treated in exactly the same way as other personal data. Schools already have systems and procedures in place to protect the significant personal information they hold on their pupils. In this controlled environment the security and privacy of an individual can be assured.
The biometric system has proved to be a hugely efficient way of serving students quickly at the tills, and can now be used to help us speed up the process of students and staff logging into printing machines.
We hope that all parents will support the school in our use of this technology which helps us make processes easier and quicker. However, if any family has concerns about this and would like to discuss them further we would be very willing to meet with you. Please contact the school to make an appointment.