Education: Biometric Recognition Systems

House of Lords written question – answered on 2nd July 2012.

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Photo of Lord Storey Lord Storey Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Hill of Oareford on 11 June (WA 157), (1) why they do not centrally record the use of automated biometric recognition systems in schools and colleges; and (2) what options are currently available to pupils and teachers should they wish to abstain from providing their biometric details.

Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford Lord Hill of Oareford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

We do not centrally record the use of automated biometric recognition systems in schools because we do not consider it essential information for collection. We are reducing data collections imposed on schools in order to relieve burdens so would not wish to impose another collection.

At present, schools and colleges using these systems must comply with the data protection principles set out in the Data Protection Act 1998 and this includes securing the consent of the data subject, in this case the pupil. Pupils and teachers can refuse to participate. The new duties in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 apply to children under 18 and require schools and colleges to notify all parents that they intend to take and process their child's biometric information and, as long as no parent objects in writing, the written consent of only one parent will be required. In addition, a pupil can object or refuse to participate in the processing of his or her biometric information and schools and colleges are under a legal obligation to provide alternative arrangements for the pupil. The options open to pupils and teachers as alternative arrangements can take many forms depending on what the biometric system is delivering but, for example, if it is cashless catering a school might provide a card for use instead.

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