#Fingerprints as ID instead of a #library #card

A number of school libraries across the UK have implemented technology enabling pupils to take out books by scanning their thumb prints instead of using a card. Such systems are intended to replace library cards and save time and money in managing the libraries. However, the use of electronic fingerprinting systems in this way to manage loans of library books has raised a number of privacy concerns.

In the last fifteen years there have been many reports that systems were being implemented in schools without prior consultation with parents or children which relied on the use of fingerprints. There were reports of school registration systems relying on the use of fingerprints, and of library management systems too. 

For example see “Children, 4, “to be fingerprinted to borrow school books from library” by Andrew Hough, 28th May 2010 IN The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/7771112/Children-as-young-as-4-to-be-fingerprinted-to-borrow-school-books.html

 Meanwhile, according to a  report in The Times, “Little brother’s fingerprints all over the library” (David Rowan, The Times 23rd July 2002), Privacy International were calling for the banning of the library management software sold by Micro Librarian Systems.

In 2006 the Department for Education and Skills and the Information Commissioner said that parents could not prevent schools from taking their children’s fingerprints (SEE “Schools can fingerprint children without parental consent IN The Register, 7th September 2006 http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/09/07/kiddyprinting_allowed).

Thankfully, the law does now provide stronger protection regarding the use of children’s fingerprints. The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 chapter 2 deals with the protection of biometric information of children in schools which says that “if, at any time, the child (a) refuses to participate in, or continue to participate in, anything that involves the processing of the child’s biometric information, or (b) otherwise objects to the processing of that information, the relevant authority must ensure that the information is not processed, irrespective of any consent given by a parent of the child under subsection (3).

This is still very much a “live” issue. There are, for example, reports of UK schools that have implemented such schemes during the course of 2016.