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Parents gain MPs' backing over school fingerprinting

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The government should come clean to parents and join with them in a public debate about the schools that have taken children's fingerprints without consent, campaign groups said last night.

Representatives of Leave Them Kids Alone, No2ID, and Action on Rights for Children were joined by other campaigning parents in London yesterday to decide how they should take on a government that has not only turned a blind eye to schools taking children's fingerprints, but has allowed them to pay for the fingerprint systems using e-Learning credits.

Action on Rights for Children spokeswoman Terri Dowty said about a dozen MPs had promised to support the campaign since opposition education spokespeople Sarah Tether, of the Liberal Democrats, and Nick Gibb of the Conservatives, put their weight behind it.

"We've now got cross-party support. They all agree that guidelines just aren't enough. Either this needs proper, informed parental consent or it needs scrapping altogether. At the moment we want to know what parents think about it.

"I think it should be stopped - and that's the opinion of all of us - because we are getting children used to the dangers of casualness about biometrics."

Pippa King, a parent from Hull who has been campaigning since she discovered her childrens' school planned to take their fingerprints without her permission, was scheduled to talk to MPs in London today.

"My children were nearly fingerprinted," she told The Register. "I thought there must be a law against it but there wasn't, so the law should be changed."

David Clouter, a parent who runs Leave Them Kids Alone, said: "We are going to poll parents to see what they want to do. We want to back this up by saying this is not just what we want but what people want."

"That's not to say that other options like legal action aren't there, but that would be up to individual parents," he added.

Phil Booth, national co-ordinator for No2ID, said: "Schools that take fingerprints from children as young as five are sending out the message that they can take control of our biometric data in situations that are non-essential."

Children shouldn't need to give their fingerprints in order to take out a library book, he said.

He also said it might even be feasible to roll back the thousands of fingerprint systems in schools without wasting the investment the schools have made. The biometrics are merely a single module of a larger system, so they could be simply pulled out and children issued with library cards instead. ®

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