Schools need consent to fingerprint kids?

ICO sticks its neck-out - and gets it in a twist

How could the ICO say that children of around 12 years were deemed mature enough to view their school records, but that children of similar age were not mature enough to hand their fingerprints over to headmaster?

The ICO said reading your school records was not quite the same as handing over your dabs, particularly when that information was being handed to a state that was growing increasingly enamoured by the idea of sharing such data with other arms of government and even the private sector.

"We think the fingerprint issue is different because someone would need to have a fairly sophisticated comprehension to understand the implications of sharing information," said the ICO spokesman.

"It's a contentious issue. Can a 12 year old be expected to understand that? It's a different ball game," he added.

It might be that the ICO's fears that state data sharing schemes might run out of control before we have got a grasp of what they are for the surveillance society, but there is still no clear legal basis for the ICO's statement on school fingerprinting.

Terri Dowty, spokeswoman for Action on Rights for Children, said a child might not understand the consequences of handing over information about themselves, but the issue of consent with regard to data sharing was an "incredibly murky area".

"For example, they might agree to a teacher telling a social worker that they have dyslexia, but they might not realise that other things, like the child's mental health or family factors might be shared," she said.

"The ramifications for the child of data sharing when its going on a permanent record is too hard to grasp," she added.

The ICO's spokesman couldn't even say at what age a child would be deemed capable of understanding the consequences of handing over its fingerprints, if the usual age of 12 was too young. Is it 16 perhaps? Has the ICO stuck its neck out a little too far, perhaps?®

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