Feeds

Schools can fingerprint children without parental consent

DfES qualifies its stance

Boost IT visibility and business value

Schools might not even have to inform parents as long as the fingerprinting system doesn't offend the DPA and children have the capacity to decide for themselves, he said.

But who gets to say whether a particular child is capable of consenting to their biometrics being taken - whether a child understands the implications of what they are being asked to do, or whether the decision should be deferred to the parent?

"That's for the school to decide," said Smith.

But campaigners against fingerprinting, such as www.leavethemkidsalone.com, don't trust schools to make that decision.

"There will always be a question in a school environment about whether consent is given," agreed Smith. "The teacher/pupil relationship makes it difficult to obtain freely given consent".

Moreover, in practice the decision is not likely to be given to individual children but presented to the class as a whole. A judgement, Smith conceded, was likely be made about the ability of a class as a whole to make a judgement.

So there might be room for concerned parents to manoeuvre: they might show that consent was not fairly sought or given, with children being given unbiased information to aid their decision. More broadly, they might argue that the decision about whether to hand over fingerprints and other biometrics goes beyond their ability to comprehend.

"[The guidance] will address consent, but it will make clear that what is essential is, [if] what's done is reasonable and proportionate, then consent wouldn't be required," said Smith.

The DPA has scope only to see that fingerprinting is done for a specific purpose, that only necessary data is collected, kept for the necessary time, and used for the allotted purpose by only the allotted people, as long as it is stored securely and not shared willy nilly.

Asked to clarify the legal basis on which its claim was made, the DfES conceded that schools had to ensure their fingerprinting schemes were compliant with the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act.

DoES said: "[Schools] should also inform parents and get consent unless the child is of 'sufficient maturity that s/he can give consent her/himself'."

According to Anne Marie Hutchinson OBE, head of the Children Department at Dawson Cornwell law firm, the applicable areas of the Human Rights Act (and Children's Act) legislation concur with the ICO's interpretation of the Data Protection Act: children below the age of 16 can consent if they can demonstrate they have the legal capacity - the nous - to do so; otherwise, parents decide. That will vary child by child and according to decision they are being asked to make.

Unless they can find a way of bringing a case on broad principles, parents who dislike a school fingerprinting their kids without parental consent will have to fight on a case by case basis, based on the legal capacity of their child or the approach of the school.

Yet, as biometrics have already made such rapid encroachments into Britain's schools, it is likely that by the time any such cases get heard, fingerprinting will already be a daily routine for many British children. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Government's 'Google Review' copyright rules become law
Welcome in a New Era ... of copyright litigation
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.