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UK school plans retinal scans in the dinner queue

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Retinal scans are to be used by a Sunderland school to identify pupils.

From next September, the Venerable Bede Church of England Aided School is to use the technology on school kids withdrawing books from its library or obtaining meals at the school canteen.

Ed Yates, headteacher of the 900-pupil school, told the BBC that retinal scan technology is cheaper and more cost effective than card swipe systems. Parents are yet to be consulted about the plan, but kids are reportedly enthusiastic about the idea (possibly because the idea of using James Bond-style equipment to obtain their meat and two veg every lunchtime appeals to their young minds).

The BBC ponders the health implications of introducing the technology but concludes that the health risks are probably minimal.

But what about the privacy concerns?

Last year, Privacy International roundly condemned the growing practice of fingerprinting school children as part of cost cutting projects to "automate" school libraries.

The human rights watchdog warned that tens of thousands of UK school children are being fingerprinted by schools, often without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

Privacy International condemned the practice as "dangerous, illegal and unnecessary", a criticism that can also be levelled at the Venerable Bede's retinal scanning scheme.

Simon Davies, a director at Privacy International, said "the use of such systems will have the effect of de-sensitising people to more comprehensive privacy invasion - such as ID cards and DNA testing - later in life."

"Schools should invest their time and resources in creating a more meaningful and exciting curriculum and environment, rather than trying to replicate Minority Report," he added. ®

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Fingerprinting of UK school kids causes outcry
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Privacy International's campaign on child fingerprinting

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