Quick Bytes: Biometrics in Schools

Should schools require students to be fingerprinted? What do you think?

This is not an abstract issue, in fact a case was decided in Illinois on Monday which has made national and international news. In this case, one parent filed suit against the school district for requiring students to provide a fingerprint in order to receive lunch. The concern is how this information will be used and whether it is safe (there are other concerns, but these are the basic issues).

Online resources (please check out a few):
Electronic Frontier Foundation news release
Christian Broadcast Network article
Chicago Tribune article (login required)
Post by Kim Cameron (Microsoft Identity Architect)
Blog “Biometrics in Schools”

What do you think? Please comment before Tuesday as to whether you think the benefits outweigh the risks…

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31 Comments on “Quick Bytes: Biometrics in Schools”

  1. hessleceilidhband Says:

    Thank you for citing my blog “Biometrics in schools”.

    As a parent, you must have the trust in the instiution you place you children in – and that is a two way thing with the school and you.

    Communication and informed decisions, in this instance don’t always happen where biometric systems are concerned…

    Inform yourself on behalf of your children. This is the biometric identity they will use when they grow up. It needs to be secure and children should learn the importance of their “identity”, personal information and who sees it. Many issues arise from this.

    Thanks for airing this issue.

    Biometric systems are a tool – and as any tool, it can be used and abused, as can a hammer.

    Pls dissasociate this issue from the bands blog! I just whistle badly and plonk the piano quite well!

    Pippa

  2. geigegirl Says:

    While fingerprinting might be a great way to positively identify someone, it seems wrong to use it for school lunch meals or library book check-out. With so many scares about identity theft, to provide a school with such information seems very risky. As mentioned in Pippa’s blog, children will have their fingerprints for the rest of their life. Should the fingerprint information be acccidentally released, the child has no way to change their fingerprint in order to stay safe. I realize that schools have promised to keep the fingerprint information secure, but mistakes happen and information is unknowingly released or is hacked into. I do not think the benefits outweigh the risks.

  3. Rebecca Ryan Says:

    What needs to be realized is the fact that the world is a much different place now than it was 20 years ago. Today, we are faced with so many problems (identity theft, etc.) revolving around technology that were never an issue before solely because we are employing it to such a great degree. Schools and other establishments have become so high tech that they are risking literally “handing out” identities just to make a process like paying for lunch go faster. For instance, my Dad owns his own dental office. He keeps his patient’s records on a computer to make finding their files easier for him. But because of this, he cannot have the internet because someone could hack into his computers and steal his patient’s records. This same situation applies to schools and biometrics. When storing information on computers that are hooked up to the internet, there is always a risk that someone somewhere is watching you in someway. Who’s to say that this system of biometrics is “foolproof”? In this day and age, it is known that safety is a constant concern in all realms and we are never 100% positive that one system is going to work. Although it is claimed that these children’s fingerprints aren’t being stored, computers keep a backup of everything put into them. Someone somewhere is smart enough to find those backed up, supposedly nonexistent files, take them, and ruin someone’s life. What has happened to our communications skills that teachers and lunch ladies cannot simply get to know their students well enough to know that child’s identity? Furthermore, what’s wrong with paying in cash? We’ve taken math classes for years; just count the money! This whole system seems like too big of a risk during this day and age to be taking in my opinion.

  4. sara_m Says:

    When we discussed it in class, you had mentioned that the fingerprinting isn’t consistently accurate or reliable yet. Because of this fact, I don’t think it should be required in schools. I feel that right now, the cons are outweighing the pros. Not only is it causing conflict between parents and schools, but I think it is also causing unnecessary confusion and conflict for the young students (like in the example of the one student who could not be scanned but the substitute teacher made him). I can see how fingerprinting could be quicker than other methods, but the fact that personal information like that is being taken from children and could be misused is slightly frightening. So if it’s not even accurate or entirely reliable, why should we be using it and creating all these extra risks?

  5. Erica C Says:

    It’s nothing new that we live in an unsafe world. With the accounts of terrorism going on, school violence, molesters and more, our safety and the well being of our citizens is, and should remain to be, a priority. The articles viewpoints were very interesting and I do agree that fingerprinting should become an essential part of the 21st century. In contrast to what Laura had said, I believe that it is a good idea for children to have this finger ID when it comes to the library and lunch. What if a child forgets his or her lunch or they lost their card to lunch or the library? Your finger can’t go any where. In addition, if there was a crime scene with evidence of a fingerprint, one can automatically go and look to see who that fingerprint belongs to, as we would all be on file. Just two weeks ago, I had to have a criminal background check and needed to get fingerprinted because continuing with my education classes and especially before student teaching. We are already using this technology to protect our students and essentially ourselves, so let’s keep going. Everything in this day and age is all technologically based and by adding fingerprinting to the system would just take technology one step further. I do believe that the benefits outweigh the risks.

  6. Erica C Says:

    It’s nothing new that we live in an unsafe world. With the accounts of terrorism going on, school violence, molesters and more, our safety and the well being of our citizens is, and should remain to be, a priority. The articles viewpoints were very interesting and I do agree that fingerprinting should become an essential part of the 21st century. In contrast to what Laura had said, I believe that it is a good idea for children to have this finger ID when it comes to the library and lunch. What if a child forgets his or her lunch or they lost their card to lunch or the library? Your finger can’t go any where. In addition, if there was a crime scene with evidence of a fingerprint, one can automatically go and look to see who that fingerprint belongs to, as we would all be on file. Just two weeks ago, I had to have a criminal background check and needed to get fingerprinted because continuing with my education classes and especially before student teaching. We are already using this technology to protect our students and essentially ourselves, so let’s keep going. Everything in this day and age is all technologically based and by adding fingerprinting to the system would just take technology one step further. I do believe the benefits outweigh the risks.

  7. Erica C Says:

    It’s nothing new that we live in an unsafe world. With the accounts of terrorism going on, school violence, molesters and more, our safety and the well being of our citizens is, and should remain to be, a priority. The articles viewpoints were very interesting and I do agree that fingerprinting should become an essential part of the 21st century. In contrast to what Laura had said, I believe that it is a good idea for children to have this finger ID when it comes to the library and lunch. What if a child forgets his or her lunch or they lost their card to lunch or the library? Your finger can’t go any where. In addition, if there was a crime scene with evidence of a fingerprint, one can automatically go and look to see who that fingerprint belongs to, as we would all be on file. Just two weeks ago, I had to have a criminal background check and needed to get fingerprinted because continuing with my education classes and especially before student teaching. We are already using this technology to protect our students and essentially ourselves, so let’s keep going. Everything in this day and age is all technologically based and by adding fingerprinting to the system would just take technology one step further.

  8. Nick L Says:

    I believe that the potential security risks and the unnecessary invasion of privacy stemming from a biometric system for students largely outweigh what few benefits there are. Fingerprinting is and has been used for only serious matters such as criminal investigations, keeping track of teachers for the sake of student safety (as all music ed students have or will experience), or other matters requiring very tight security. There seems to be very little sense in trivializing this technology in order to speed up a lunch line. Parents and students have no real guarantee that purposes such as these are the only ones that biometric data would be used for. Bank account numbers and credit card information are already coveted enough by scam artists and thieves worldwide. Imagine the market for something (fingerprints) that could almost infallibly be used to fake an identity. Creating such a broad database of such sensitive information seems quite unnecessary given the potential risks and few benefits. Brian Dury, an IT sepcialist, outlines some of his concerns in the IdentityBlog posting. Parents should have every right to not permit their children to be scanned. School programs have gotten along fine through the use of cards or systems other than fingerprinting. In the CBN article, a school principal says that such a system would increase the time teachers were able to spend focused on students. This is frankly quite silly, as the time gained could amount to no more than a few seconds in each proposed situation. When factored in with the time and money that would be needed to establish the system and maintain its security and integrity, the whole plan seems almost retroactive.

  9. CarmC Says:

    I think that for the most part it is un-needed, you can use an id card for lunches, library books, etc. you dont need your finger print to eat or get a book you want it is unecessary, the only reason you should use your finger print for is personal security and national security. yea , people cant steal your finger print to eat your lunch, but what about the people who WANT or LET others use there id card, It is not suppose to happen but it does, I know I rather let someone else eat one of my meals when I cant or dont feel like it so that meal doesnt get wasted. I also think that using the finger print rather than making the exchange with the lunch lady who swipes your card is socially akward. I also dont want that lady to lose her job. and if there isnt just some nice old lady you say hi to then it will be a repair/ cs geek, who will repair it everyday like the photocopy machines. I am so against this, I dont want to be bias’d but the cons outweigh the pros, I cant even see any pros.

  10. zgeller2 Says:

    I think the actions taken by the school are outrageous and the cons completely outweigh any potential benefits from this situation. I personally don’t even see how the school benefits from taking fingerprints of their students. Fingerprinting has a rather negative stigma surrounding it, because it is associated with crime and arrests. When people think of fingerprinting, two things come to mind, Criminals and gaining access to incredibly secure facilities that require many forms of identification. But, in this situation, it is used to track the kids throughout the school and identify them durring lunch making certain that they are where they should be. But why do they need to be fingerprinted? They say that they delete the fingerprints afterwards, but computors are not always secure. nothing is completely secure. If people wanted to, they could use these fingerprints for their own benefits. It just seems outgrageous that students in junior high and below were forced to get scanned. As a music educator, I had to get my fingerprints scanned for a criminal background check, which is an important and necesary procedure. But to be scanned in order to be able to eat lunch just sounds like a totalitarian society. It has such a negative feel around it, like their rights and humanity is being taken away. It is a big shame that in times like this the “Big Shots” lose sight of humanity and do whatever is necesary or easy and are nearly completely selfish in their actions.

  11. vabaker2 Says:

    I still think I am undecided…I agree with fingerprinting from both ways really I do not really see it as right or wrong but more of a when where and why…

    I completely agree with Erica. Though a piece of plastic in this case can provide the same thing as a fingerprint however the card is one more thing for them to loose. However a bigger issue I see for this is at what age does this become appropriate? Any I suppose since we are fingerprinted as infants. For safety reasons I can see where a 6 year old would need a fingerprint. But if a school is being monitored well enough then should the identity of a grade schooler be the issue here. And I agree with Zach that fingerprinting at least for us is a reinforcement a crime or to something secure. A child might be quite alarmed by needing their fingerprint just ti get a lunch, a bit intimidating if you ask me.

    Another thing with fingerprinting is it can be more of hassle than helpful. That equipment is very sensitive and expensive. I use one at a fitness center I work in at home and it has caused us more harm than good there and I guess my final decision is just better security in a form of monitoring what’s happening in the school and who is coming in and out. The chance of something happening will be there no matter what.

  12. Matt O Says:

    While I certainly believe that no one can be compeled to give their fingerprint unless they are a suspect in a criminal investigation, and any refusal to provide a finger print must be protected by law in essences as a part of the 5th amendment; it seems to me that refusal to do so borders on paranoia. If identity theft is such a serious conscern you should never agree to carry an id card or use credit and atm cards considering the fact that these can easily be stolen and used. At least a finger print is extremely dificult to steal in the first place and would even more difficult to use without arousing suspicion. (granted I would rather have my wallet stolen than a finger tip severed). Our information is everywhere as it is, why not make it more secure and convenient by making it a part of us. Our right to controll that information must of course be absolute, and the only form of persuasion acceptable is convenience.

  13. pianostars10487 Says:

    This is interesting because I JUST got finger printed a week ago (for the music ed. early field experiences). I didn’t really think anything of it. I was very compliant, I want to be able to take all of my classes, you know? And if I am going to be a teacher, I don’t see why I would mind getting finger printed, anything to make my students or their parents feel safer.

    After reading through several of the articles, I’m a bit puzzled. It sounds like there are many sides to the story. Some parents felt like it happened at the schools without notice, the companies claim there’s a law requiring for them to have parental consent? Which actually happened?

    Well, either way… I’m all for making school’s safer. And finger-prints aren’t very easy to fake. So, it certainly seems like a good way to keep strangers from entering the building. As far as the “fingerprint templates” getting wrongfully used by companies… I’m not sure what could happen with that. I’m not really sure where I land with the whole idea. It seems kind of drastic to do with all students, but I’m not sure I would know best. *shrugs*

  14. mraczki2 Says:

    I cannot decide wether I am for or against biometrics used in schools. I can see how it may help the school. Everything would become more efficent. Lines for lunches and checking out books would speed up and I guess then you can see if your child did eat that day (which is a concern for some parents). But would it really save that much time? I don’t really see the difference between swiping an ID card vs scaning a fingerprint, only that you can’t loose ur fingerprint. But what about the instances where an ID card might not work and you have to go get someone for help? What if that happened with the fingerprint? There can still be some flaws with that system as well.

    I know that they don’t technically use the fingerprint and that they make a template from the fingerprint but wouldn’t that mean that someone could get that template and transfer it back to the fingerprint? Then who knows what someone can use with that information. I feel like using biometrics would bring a little fear into the school. I believe that it would make the school feel like an airport. Doing all these things for efficiency and security. I don’t see how people would feel comfortable in a school.

    It is also an issue of privacy. If you don’t want your or your child’s information stored by fingerprint then there should be another option. I say have the option of biometrics but also have alternative options that would make some individuals more comfortable. No one should force others to give out there information. I also find it outragous that school acctually said that if the child doesn’t scan then he or she doesn’t eat. Isn’t that going a little to far?

  15. mladror2 Says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with the biometrics system. The chances of having your fingerprint information stolen are negligible. People should be more concerned about their stolen bank accounts than these stolen fingerprint templates. Who would want to frame a grade school kid anyway? I think those angry parents in the article are angry over nothing.
    However, I find it silly that schools would abandon all other forms of identification. Maintaining older systems of identification would be extremely cheap, so they might as well keep them alongside the biometric system. They need people to oversee the scanners and take care of special exceptions or malfunctions anyway. Those people can just as easily look at ID cards. In addition, I don’t think this method is any faster than swiping ID cards, and not that much faster than stamping cards. It isn’t necessary, and it is probably very expensive to install. Throw in the occasional irrationally angry parent, and the system just isn’t worth it.
    The only redeeming quality to the system is that kids will not have to worry about losing their ID or lunch cards, and bullies can’t steal them either.
    In short, my problem with the system deals with financing and common sense, not morality. The system isn’t that much better than any other, and is much more expensive.

  16. strings87 Says:

    As funding in school districts continues to be cut, the ability to maintain an arts program becomes harder and harder. In many cases, the music program is simply cut from the budget completely. Speaking from a cost perspective, it does not seem logical to implement biometrics in schools at this time. Based off the articles that were provided, it seems that biometrics did not provide any more valuable information than what you could get off a physical identification card. Until there is more use and function to using biometrics, our focus should be on continuing to promote the arts in schools.

  17. jimmcguire Says:

    It is hard to fully disagree with advances such as fingerprinting because its sole intention is to assist us more efficiently in our everyday lives. Merely saying “no” to the issue of fingerprinting for the sake of not wanting this change could, in the long run, delay us from further advances of its type in the future. Of course there will be risks involved, especially for those who choose to use this fingerprinting technology in its early years while there may be loop holes within the design of the idea that could lead to things like identity fraud. Despite this, I believe that fingerprinting should be implemented because the kinks will eventually be worked out and it could lead us to bigger and better things. Personally, I believe there is no better group of people to try the technology out on than students, which was the proposed idea in the school lunch setting. Identity fraud would be much less probable with a group of junior high students than it would with adults, for obvious reasons.

  18. dmig2000 Says:

    I see how this can easily become a problem with the world we live in. However, I think that quite often, people are over cautious. It can be very scary sometimes to think that young children aren’t always perfectly protected everywhere they go. But I think that sometimes parents need to place a little more trust in the people they are having take care of their children. If school districts truly thought that the biometrics systems were a problem, they would most likely take them out and find some new technology to replace it. Overall, I think we need to look at the positive side of this technology. It is a very simple way to carry identification that you can never lose (something I always have a problem with)

  19. rmelend2 Says:

    I believe that fingerprinting in schools can be extremely risky. I don’t like how students are being required to use their fingerprint rather than a student ID in order to read a book or eat. A fingerprint is something that is personal and permanent. Unlike an identification card, a fingerprint can’t be replaced or altered. Many security measures must be made in order to keep those fingerprints safe. If schools are planning to use fingerprints, they must know how much responsibility must be taken in order to protect them. An ID card can be easily replaced, but a fingerprint most certainly can’t be protected if fallen into the wrong hands. Also, by having access to someone’s fingerprint, the school then has much more information than needed. Fingerprints can be stolen and manipulated. I think there a lot more drawbacks to utilizing fingerprints than positives.

  20. danmorrison Says:

    While finger printing seems like it could be a quick and easy way to identify students, I do not think it is worth the trouble that it usually causes. Parents are right to say that their children, especially young children, should not be subjected to fingerprinting. There also brings up a security risk because hackers and identity thieves could probably more easily access the finger prints at a school as opposed to the FBI or a police station. It just does not seem worth the hassle, ID cards seem that they work completely fine, why try to get more advanced than we need to?

  21. S_Murray Says:

    Fingerprinting is a bad idea. I have no trust or faith in public school systems, so leave it to them for something terrible to come out of this sort of situation.

    I believe there are plenty of other alternatives to this than using fingerprints.

  22. Lauren V. Says:

    As a student I would not feel comfortable with being fingerprinted and having it serve as a way of paying, checking in, etc. Your fingerprints are your identity and if those records ever got into the wrong hands, it could be extremely dangerous. If someone gets a hold of your prints, you can’t simply go out and get a “new” fingerprint. I do not feel the school systems should be allowed to have that much information on someone, especially people under the age of 18. ID cards are just as effective and much safer than using your prints. They can be replaced if lost and they do not have as much information attached to them. I do not think schools realize how much responsibility fingerprints are and I doubt they will take the proper precautions in dealing with them.

  23. jlaw2 Says:

    I agree with most of the posts above, fingerprinting is a quick easy way to identify students, however it is not nearly accurate enough for it to be widely implementd

  24. bhillho2 Says:

    Fingerprinting is good for personal use, but I disagree with it in schools. It leave a wide gap if power goes down or someone has trouble with logging in. I think the tax money and the time of school students could be better used then worrying about stupid fingerprinting. What about swappable ID cards if they want to get technical.

  25. Brendan Frank Says:

    I think that it’s completely ridiculous to go as far to say that a student can’t receive lunch without accepting the fingerprinting. I believe that fingerprinting is a useful technological advancement, yet I wish they would keep it out of schools and out of the way of young kids. Is our country really that bad that we need to fingerprint 7 year olds in order for them to get lunch? Seriously, Illinois’ schools need to pull it together.

  26. marielemke Says:

    I do not think it is necessary for students to be fingerprinted for something as simple as making the lunch line move faster. It is dangerous to have this information. If schools want that information, they need to ask permission from the parents of the students. This is an invasion of privacy.

  27. sgritz2 Says:

    I think the idea of taking fingerprints from children is ridiculous. I know I’m not a parent, but when I have kids I would never let them do something like that. I don’t think it’s necessary to have such personal information. That’s why we have things like ID cards, driver’s licenses, etc. Fingerprints are personal, and I would not want the government having something like that so handy as it could get in the wrong hands. They already invade our privacy enough in my opinion…

  28. cjensen2 Says:

    I am not totally opposed to the idea of fingerprinting in schools, but I think that if some parents are uncomfortable with having their children fingerprinted, it should not be required. Obviously, having some students fingerprinted and not others creates a whole different issue. My main point is that I personally would not be opposed to it, but I can understand why some people would be.

  29. kellyfitz Says:

    i think that it is a double-edged sword in many respects. Fingerprinting children can be very beneficial for a child’s safety, especially in cases of kidnapping, abuse, and in the worst cases, murder. One of the worst scenarios is having a body and no way to identify it.
    I think it is also very important to consider the fact that the government uses this information for more than when it is “absolutely necessary” to use it. Keeping tabs on people without their knowledge and consent seems to violate the fifth ammendment the search and seizure rights that we, as citizens have. Students should not feel as though they are in a prison when it comes to such simple ideas as checking out library books and lunch lines. There is no reason to change the system of check-out and card catalogues to violate a students’ freedom. Using tihs information so casually really diminishes the necessity of this identification method.
    Essentially the casual attitude that the schools have with what would qualify as necessary for this identification system to be used pays too high a price for a student’s freedom. We have other methods of identification to take care of these problems.

  30. kellyfitz Says:

    that was actually the fourth amendment (due process would not be affected)

  31. jmrush2 Says:

    The CNN article provides several benefits for the fingerprint system, such as less time taken in the luchroom for the card swipes, faster library checkout, and even bus safety. They interviewed only one person who was aginst the idea who did not have anything to say, which is a little unfair.
    By fingerprinting everybody, our privcacy is no longer as strong as it would be. As an educator these days, we must get fingerprinted, and I understand that’s part of a backround check. But anything we touch can be traced to us now. If there was ever a crime scene, such as the one recently in the Music Building, our prints are all over that recording studio room. I watched the police sample the door that was cut out. It is likely that there are more of MY fingerprints on that door than there are from the theives. Anyone with plans to steal thousands of dollars worth of sound equipment is not going to leave anything to ideantify themselves. What if some of the innocent people are accused? How would they defend themselves?
    The same thing might happen in a middle school, where each kid has his or her prints on record. I think there is more danger and unfairness than there is good in this idea.


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