PARENTS are being urged to check if their children have been fingerprinted at school as new research shows more than 70,000 Northwest pupils are enrolled in schools that use biometric technology.
Privacy and civil liberties campaign group, Big Brother Watch, has warned Britain is coming close to taking fingerprints from more than one million pupils and urged schools to be more transparent about the biometric systems they are using.
An automated biometric recognition system uses technology that measures an individual’s physical or behavioural characteristics.
It allows schools to offer a “cashless” system in canteens by simply scanning a pupil’s fingerprint but the Government changed the law from September 2013 to ensure no child was fingerprinted without parents first being asked, something Big Brother Watch has discovered is not always the case.
In the Northwest, 139 schools responded to the campaign group’s Freedom of Information requests, with 67 of them using biometric technology – equating to 71,113 pupils being enrolled in schools using the system.
However, the findings show that just 52% of those schools have obtained parental permission to do so.
Wirral Council told the Globe it was unable to provide figures on how many of the borough's secondary schools used the technology as each school sets its own policy.
Big Brother Watch said it too was unable to provide Wirral-specific figures.
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “As the new school term gets underway, now is the time for parents to check if their children are among the hundreds of thousands of pupils who are using biometric technology.
“Going to school should not mean kids are taught that they have no privacy, especially at a time when we are sharing more date about ourselves than ever before.
“Fingerprinting them and tracking what they do might save some admin work but the risk is pupils think it is normal to be tracked like this all the time.
“Schools need to be transparent about what data is being collected and how it is used.
“Parents will be rightly concerned to hear so many schools did not seek their permission to fingerprint their children, while pupils may not have been made aware they now have a legal right to use a system that doesn’t require a fingerprint to be taken.
“The Government was right to change the law but it’s up to parents to make sure the law is being followed.”