Feeds

Halt to school fingerprinting

China strikes blow for privacy

Remote control for virtualized desktops

The Hong Kong privacy commissioner has ordered a school to stop fingerprinting children before it becomes a runaway trend that is too late to stop.

The school, in the Kowloon District, installed the system last year but, under the order of the Hong Kong Privacy Commission, has ripped it out and destroyed all the fingerprint data it had taken from children.

Roderick Woo, Justice of the Peace at the Hong Kong Office of the Privacy Commissioner, told El Reg he had decided to examine the issue immediately after the first school installed a fingerprint reader to take registers in his jurisdiction.

And, he decided: "It was a contravention of our law, which is very similar to your law, which is that the function of the school is not to collect data in this manner, that it was excessive and that there was a less privacy-intrusive method to use."

In other words, he said, what better way is there for a teacher to take a register than to look around the class, note who's missing, and take down their names for the record. Measuring fingerprints seemed a little over the top for the task in hand, which translated into terms understood by privacy laws, means that the use of information technology was not proportionate to the task in hand.

He also looked at the need of schools to get consent from either pupils or parents before they took fingerprints at class registration. This is an avenue being considered by parents in the UK who want to challenge schools that have taken their children's fingerprints without parental consent.

Britain's Information Commissioner has said it might be enough for a school to get the consent of a child before taking its fingerprints.

Woo, however, decided otherwise: "I considered the consent of the staff and pupils rather dubious, because primary school's consent in law cannot be valid and there's undue influence. If the school says, 'give up your fingerprint', there's no way of negotiating.

"Also it's not a good way to teach our children how to give privacy rights the consideration they deserve," he added.

That is another fear expressed by some parents opposed to their children being fingerprinted, even when the majority of the systems in use are much more primitive than those used in criminal investigations.

The Hong Kong Office of the Privacy Commissioner ordered the school to remove the fingerprint system in the hope it would discourage other schools from installing similar systems without careful consideration, and prevent a rush of school fingerprinting as has occured in Britain.

However, Woo did note that other schools could not fingerprint their children for other purposes.

"That's not to say I'm opposed to any fingerprint scanning systems. I will look at any complaint on a case by case basis. It's not an anti hi-tech attitude I take," he said. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MI6 oversight report on Lee Rigby murder: US web giants offer 'safe haven for TERRORISM'
PM urged to 'prioritise issue' after Facebook hindsight find
Assange™ slumps back on Ecuador's sofa after detention appeal binned
Swedish court rules there's 'great risk' WikiLeaker will dodge prosecution
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
NSA mass spying reform KILLED by US Senators
Democrats needed just TWO more votes to keep alive bill reining in some surveillance
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.