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Letters The government confirmed this week that schools can fingerprint children without asking parents for consent. This is such hideous news that Brown and Blair had to stage an immediate "coup attempt" to divert media attention from the issue.

Didn't work though, and you lot are none too pleased about the plan:

Sooner or later you'll have a case of a school kid mugged for a mobile and the muggers identified by their uniform. So how long before the police are going through the school fingerprint database?

And if my kids' fingerprints are NOT on the database since they refused (oh yes, they will!) - how fast can I expect cops on the doorstep "for a friendly chat"? Why did they not agree to have the fingerprints taken? You have nothing to worry if you have nothing to hide, right?

And since schooling is more or less compulsary, what a temptation for the next governements to have a 100% population's fingerprints on the database, you never know when and for what it might come in handy. Get the little ones first, get them used to the idea of tagging and they won't bleat a word when they're dna-tested later. We need to protect our society from the terrorists, right?

Ah, and the clasroom voting, don't you love the idea of 5 year olds standing out against the crowd?

"Now, children, raise your hands if you support the idea of having a nice, secure library environment when we do the fingerprint exercise. Thank youuu, all of you, well done... Oy, you, you there! You little shit there, where's YOUR hand, eh?! Well, children, unfortunately, unfortunately due to the veto by your here little friend, we'll have to... have to.. try it again, in a week or so, until he's understood what it's all about. I hope you will help us convince him it's for his own goooood.

Marek


A variable "consider the maturity of the child" system could never work. One would suspect that the estimated maturity would be inversely proportional to said child's likelihood to say "no". Why not require that both are consulted? The government keeps claiming that it wants parents to take an active role in their children's education; surely now is the time to make good on that.

Consent won't be the issue, however - it's never about consent. This is the scary thing about the State's relationship with personal data. Other options are never given or, when they are, the "but this is better" argument or the "this brings us more into line with our European/American/whoever allies" argument is used. Scarily few people ask "how?/why?", those that do are brow-beaten until a sufficient proportion give up and a critical mass of ignorance/silence is achieved. Then it becomes compulsory.

To paraphrase the late, great Bill Hicks: "Here, here's Big Brother, watch this, shut up, go back to bed, here is Celebrity Love Island, here is 56 channels of it. Here you go - you are free to do as we tell you! You are free to do as we tell you!"

Richard


Shouldn't it be that if the child cannot give consent, then no consent can be given: in effect, the default is refusal. The child can refuse, the parent can refuse but both must acceede to the fingerprinting for it to be acceptable. If the child cannot agree, then the collection cannot be taken: no informed consent. Exactly as is the case with a contract.

Mark


Hang on a sec. Why does the IC - an unelected official - get to bugger around with the general understanding of whether children may consent to things?

Schools get to order children around a lot, though whether they do so under statute or because their parents implicitly or explicitly give consent on the child's behalf varies.

Very little that happens at school involves any consent by the child.

Equally children aren't usually considered to have the capacity to consent to perfectly ordinary things, even where they might actually have full understanding of what's involved.

If you offer to take your neighbour's child to the cinema and ask the child without consulting the parent, you may find the police and all sorts of child protection bureaucrats taking a sudden interest in you... and perhaps in the parent if it doesn't bother them.

If you're an official who wants do do something obscure and technical with a kid ( whether the parents are happy or not), go ahead, however. Another official gets to say it is OK if the child consents.

Guy


Very odd. So

1) the Deputy Information Commissioner is about to write guidance and he says it will clearly state that actually, consent is not required if someone thinks that the setup using the information is proportionate and reasonable.

2) "Where a child is not capable of giving consent it goes to the parent" - are we implying that "capable of giving consent" and "capable of refusing consent" aren't the same coin? That if a child says yes, we'll accept the child, but if they say no, we'll go to someone else?

3) If anyone successfully brought a case, that consent was given on insufficient information and therefore did not amount to consent, you could presumably extend the same logic to adults. That's probably why the Information Commissioner is trying to make out that consent isn't required at all.

Looks like the claim that consent isn't required anyway is one that has to be challenged pretty sharply.

James


With every day that passes, this government is slowly chipping away at our basic freedoms. Obviously the present government has decided that there is too much opposition to id cards et al, from free-thinking adults, so has decided to approach the matter from a different direction.....

Get the kids used to the state survellance and biometric monitoring early, and by the time they are adults they'll be subserviant drones, willing to sign up to any ridiculous "security" initiative.

As the Jesuit motto goes "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man" .....

GGGGRRR - I'm sorry angry about this, that I had to rewrite the e-mail several times to ensure that it didn't become the FOTW.....

Ian


Well, well.

Nicely done.

Can't fingerprint EVERYONE, as the actual critical-thinking-enabled adults would object, knowing as they do government's propensity for oppressive misuse of such data.

But this KIDS -- "do it for the children" -- that's different.

Except that, through simple attrition, within a few years they will in fact have EVERYONE in the bloody database.

That's quite a finesse. Hitler would have been proud. ~~ G


I love this part:

"Even where the act does consider consent of the child, it cannot rule in a blanket fashion so as to, say, proclaim that schools should seek parental consent before fingerprinting children below a certain age.

"The capacity of a child to make a decision varies from child to child, while some decisions are more involved than others," said Smith."

So it's OK to 'rule in a blanket fashon' when it comes to drinking, smoking, voting, driving, credit, and sex? Hows that work?

Rick


Does the fact children are allowed to sign up for junk mail, despite their parents not wanting it, also imply that a parent giving out their child's details (signing up for dentists, travel agents for holidays to Bognor etc) may be in breach of the DPA if they did not gain their child's consent? Aargh. Stuart Lawton


"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."

So parents have to put up with their child being fingerprinted unless they are willing to go to court and prove that their child is too stupid to understand the implications - "please may my child be excused from being fingerprinted along with the rest of his class as he is thick as pigshit"...

Looks like the Education Dept. have thought that one through quite well. If only they would use these powers for good instead of evil.

Matt


Is it just me or is this country fast becoming a fascist police state? What with the government wanting to fingerprint our kids, give us all ID cards, bugging our bins, tracking our cars, videoing our every move, introducing racial profiling and sharing our private data to all and sundry. All this in the name of keeping us safe from the evil armies of terrorists and paedophiles and asylum seekers lurking behind every tree, ready to destroy our civilisation and sodomise our grandparents at a moments notice... an obvious excuse exaggerated to keep all the Sun readers towing the party line. Am I the only person giving serious thought to finding somewhere else to live before Group 4 open their first death camp? ...Would the last freedom loving person leaving the UK please turn out the lights... Marcus

Marcus, its been dark 'round here for ages...


It should be known that in France, fingerprinting of kids for access control has been turned down by the CNIL (National Commission on IT and Civil Liberties). The CNIL allows hand shape recognition and iris scanning, because these two cannot be used for other purposes (you don't leave iris prints behind you).

Bert Ofnuts


On the eternal question of how to encourage people to study difficult subjects in a world obsessed with A grades, we're offered space and cash bribes to entice teens into all things technie:

Bribes could increase maths intake and Space: inspirational, but full of greybeards ...are both symptoms of the same problem - the government has been pushing, for years, vocational qualifications at the expense of pure academia (and fine art in education for that matter).

The view seems to have been that qualifications that are geared towards specific jobs are better than aimless, esoteric education. There is no push on learning for learning's sake and therefore little incentive to learn how to, well, learn (or teach yourself I suppose) something new. The job at the end of it is the goal, not the accruing of knowledge.

Brilliant if you want a population of experts in fields that are current or have been predicted - not so useful whe something new comes along and no-one has the core, adaptable skills (maths, language or draughtsmanship for example) to take advantage of this new field.

Train everyone to be master swordsmen and some bugger will come along with a musket - feudal Japan comes to mind.

Chris


On a similar note, referring to the letters haul we ran earlier this week:

`Colin, you've hit on one of our particular whinges about UK and European space exploration. The science is fascinating, the images (if you can find them) are often terrific, but where is the glitz? ESA presentations tend to be long on thanking bureaucrats and sponsors, but short on the fun stuff. Who knows why? Answers on a postcard, please.'

I don't know exactly why, not being privy to the inner workings of the ESA, but it does strike me that SMART-1 was a *cheap* spacecraft - adding glitz costs money.

Not only that, but ESA funding does not depend on anything remotely like the so-called `democratic' processes that are behind NASA funding - the ESA gets its funding without `the people of Europe' having any say in the matter at all. It's all decided in closed meetings AFAIK. So no need for glitz.

I also get the idea that for reasons of funding propaganda (consider the process above) ESA space scientists like to put themselves across as serious scientists, rather than excited youngsters (30 years ago I'd've just said `schoolboys', but, erm, y'know...) who just want to play in space[1] - which would tend to incline one against adding glitz - glitz, after all, is extra expense for no sensible return from the point of view of those with control of the purse strings.

And on top of that, the ESA itself is one of those dreadful bureaucratic Euro-institutions, which seem unable to present themselves as anything but incredibly bland and tedious. Rowland.

[1] Never mind that they probably do think like that - well, the ones who are any good, anyway. I hope.


Also from the letters, you might recall that one Blaise Egan got all upset at our non standard notation. We wrote 2,000kg (with a coma) not 2000 kg (without) and failed to leave a space between the number and the letters of kg. This was all in direct contravention of the internationally accepted standard on scientific notation, Blaise told us.

But, sadly for the week's most indignant pedant, pedantry is an art form among Reg readers, and you have written in your zillions (all right, about 12 of you) to correct his error:

Blaise Egan himself errs in his pedantry, as a satellite cannot weigh 2000 kg, though it may very well have a mass of 2000 kg. Its weight will depend on where it is. Your original article avoided this particular trap.

Andrew


Re: the letter from Blaise F Egan about the satellite weighing "2,000kg". I realise I stopped being a physicist a while ago but I thought the international system units for weight were Newtons and not kilograms (which are of course the unit of mass). So maybe that weight figure should be approximately 20 000 N? regards, Geoff.

Then, in a stunning display of self-correcting pedantry, Geoff wrote again:

I got this wrong of course - Newtons are a convenience and the SI units would be kgms^-2 (kilograms metres per second-squared)

Geoff

I think we'll consider the point made, and leave it there. Turn the page for more of your thoughts on life, love and ballot stuffing...

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