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UK school to use fingerprint for payment in cafeteria


Helston Community College in Cornwall will begin to use a fingerprint-based cashless payment system for its cafeteria and food services.

The UK school will use the “Trust-e Cashless Catering System” provided by Nationwide Retail Systems Ltd. The system is designed to reduce queues at lunch time, provide anonymous free school meals to pupils and allow lunch money to be pre-paid.

According to Nationwide Retail Systems, the Trust-e Cashless System allows school councils to centrally maintain their system and automatically collect data for any number of schools within their borough.

Menus, products, prices and till layouts can now be centrally controlled leaving the catering team at the school to concentrate on the preparation of school meals. Also being collected from each of the schools is the full transaction history allowing the council to report on meal uptake, free school meals and product sales.

Alongside pupil and nutritional data, the system enables demographic and geographic reporting of student eating habits by postal code area, gender, religion and ethnicity.

As reported previously in BiometricUpdate.com, parents who have privacy concerns are able to have their children opt-out of the system according to new guidelines for English schools, and pupils can be provided with another identification method such as a four-digit PIN code.

School officials however did attempt to reassure parents that children’s actual fingerprints would be not be recorded by the system, but instead the biometric identifier would be recorded as an algorithm.

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2 Replies to “UK school to use fingerprint for payment in cafeteria”

  1. Biometrics advocates complain that reporters often don’t know the difference between iris and retina. Yet they don’t pull up journalists for the more serious confusion about “algorithm”, repeated above. The biometric “algorithm” is the mathematical process implemented in software or firmware that converts a scan of the body part into a specific numerical representation. When a person enrolls, a reference representation is saved — called the template — and on subsequent access attempts, a fresh scan is processed down using the algorithm and compared against saved templates. When it’s said that ‘only an algorithm’ is stored, what they really mean is template.
    Biometrics advocates think it’s good for privacy that only templates are stored, but it’s a red herring. Privacy is threatened by all sorts of other biometrics functions (see http://lockstep.com.au/blog/2012/10/20/biometrics-and-privacy-basics). The risk to do with storage of scans or templates is more a security issue, relating to potential identity theft. Storing a raw scan would mean an attacker might obtain original biometric data which might be replayed to mimic the enrolled individual. Storing processed templates instead is better than raw data, but it’s still no absolute protection against identity theft. For one thing, researchers are continually finding ways to “reverse engineer” templates to produce synthetic traits that generate matches against targeted templates. Fingerprints, face and iris modalities have all been reverse engineered.
    It’s time that biometrics proponents, when the call for more rigor amongst reporters, to apply the same standard to their own marketing claims. Describing storage of “algorithms” is a silly mistake; but talking up the advantages pf storing templates is misleading.

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