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Schools still a battleground for biometric systems serving students

Categories Biometrics News  |  Schools  |  Surveillance
Schools still a battleground for biometric systems serving students

Controversy continues to accompany the rollout of biometrics in schools. Recent examples demonstrate areas where higher-education officials feel they can justify the systems.

Administrators of Mercer County Community College, in New Jersey, has tried to adapt to COVID restrictions by closing the campus café and deploying banks of vending machines. Privacy concerns and some operational headaches for students arrived with the café’s closing.

The school’s student newspaper has reported on worries by some students that their scanned fingerprints are beyond their control and subject to theft.

Beyond that, according to a recent article, students report having trouble actually buying food from the biometrics-gated machines.

Syracuse University, in New York, has positioned its use of contactless fingerprint biometrics readers in dining rooms as a value add for students buying unlimited meal plans.

According to an article in the student-run publication The Daily Orange scanning is only available with unlimited plans, and their use is designed to speed meal lines.

As at Mercer, some Syracuse students do not think giving up their biometric information for faster meal service is a good trade. Security concerns alone outweigh the convenience, they told the newspaper.

It does not help that the accounts of about 10,000 Syracuse students, student applicants and alumni were compromised in February.

In Massachusetts, privacy advocates are pushing for a law forbidding the use of face biometrics in public places statewide.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has organized the campaign, and is organizing defined groups, in this case schools, to broaden pressure on state legislators. The group wants them to prohibit local schools from buying or using face biometrics on school grounds.

In the United Kingdom, administrators at the University College of London are discussing the dangers of biometrics on campuses. A school post on the matter reads like a basic academic primer on the technology and its implications without calling for more than additional research and debate.

The post also warns administrators about the role “poorly educated” schools could potentially play in making biometrics deployments less effective by improperly setting the false acceptance and rejection thresholds. This has, according to the article, led to children’s school meals being charged to the wrong account.

The post also notes that the Biometrics Institute Congress session held this week addressed the privacy impact of the technology in education settings.

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