Privacy group reveals more than one million pupils are fingerprinted

Figure based on 1,255 FoI requests filed by Big Brother Watch

More than one million children in England have been fingerprinted by their schools - thousands without their parent's consent, a report out today has revealed.

The report, compiled by civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, revealed that 866,000 children had their fingerprints taken in the academic year 2012-13. The report points out that this figure is expected to rise to 1.28 million, or 40 percent of England's total school population, in 2013-14, as an increasing number of schools adopt biometric technology.

Biometrics can be used to record attendance, grant access to certain parts of a school building and pay for meals without the use of cash or card.

The privacy group received 1,255 returns on Freedom of Information Requests that were sent out to schools in September. The FoIs revealed that one third of schools using biometrics are doing so without the consent of pupil's parents, despite the fact that the government changed the law last year to enable parents to opt out if they objected to their children being fingerprinted.

Big Brother Watch is urging schools to become more transparent around their usage of biometric systems.

"Going to school should not mean kids are taught that they have no privacy, especially at a time when we are sharing more data about ourselves than ever before," said Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch.

"Fingerprinting them and tracking what they do might save some admin work but the risk is pupils think it is normal to be tracked like this all the time. Schools need to be transparent about what data is being collected and it is used.

"Parents will be rightly concerned to hear so many schools did not seek their permission to fingerprint their children while pupils may not have been made aware they now have a legal right to ask to use a system that doesn't require a fingerprint to be taken."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "It is absolutely right that parents should decide how their child's personal data is used. That is why we changed the law so parents now have the right to prevent schools and colleges including independent schools - using their children's biometric data.

"Schools and colleges must now ensure that written consent is obtained from parents before a child's biometric data is taken and used, and must make alternative arrangements if the request is refused."

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