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The new government plans to ban the controversial practice in schools of taking children's fingerprints without their permission.

The decision is likely to mean a change in the law. According to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), as it stands the Data Protection Act allows schools to take pupil fingerprints without permission, prompting outrage from parents' groups.

In response, in 2007 the ICO issued non-binding guidance to schools suggesting that they ought to seek permission.

In a brief document explaining the broad terms of their coalition yesterday, the Conservative and Liberal Democrats committed to "outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission".

The Register recently heard from Chris Halliday, a father in the Scottish borders who has battled authorities for several years after his daughter's fingerprints were taken without the family's permission.

Fighting for answers from the ICO, he was eventually told that as well as having no choice as a parent, his daughter's consent was also not needed by the secondary school. Her "consent could not be freely given", the ICO wrote, because a fingerprint was needed to use the school dinners system.

Halliday's anger at the regulatory response chimes with that of campaign groups such as Leave Them Kids Alone, which argues that being forced to give biometric data to access normal services is a breach of children's human rights.

There have already been moves to rein in school fingerprinting at local level. In Liverpool, the city council passed a motion banning promotion of biometrics in schools by the local authority.

The ICO said said today that it was awaiting further details of the proposed national restrictions, which are due in the next two weeks. Responsibility for drawing up the new policy will fall to the Department of Justice, under Ken Clarke. ®

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