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Pupils' prints taken without parents' permission

Schools accused of breaching human rights by fingerprinting students

Electronic fingerprinting is being used in thousands of UK schools without parents' knowledge, according to human rights watchdog Privacy International.

An electronic fingerprinting scheme, sometimes stored with other digital information, is being implemented as part of a long-term plan to automate school libraries.

But Privacy International feels the process is a breach of human rights, allowing schools to store children's fingerprints without obtaining parental consent.

"Such a process has the effect of softening children up for such initiatives as ID cards and DNA testing," said Privacy International director Simon Davies. "It’s clearly a case of 'get them while they're young'. They are seen as a target for this technology."

Despite these concerns, the Information Commission — the body responsible for the protection of private information — has welcomed the fingerprinting system, arguing it "aids compliance with the Data Protection Act".

"This is a bleak moment for privacy in Britain," said Davies. "I am appalled that the commission would support a situation where impressionable and young children are obliged to yield their fingerprints even before they have reached an age of discretion on such matters."

The Information Commission was unavailable for comment.

As many as 200,000 primary and secondary schoolchildren could already have been fingerprinted and, according to the pressure group, 350 schools throughout the UK have installed the machines.

The worry for parents, who appear to have been kept in the dark over this process, is where this private information will end up and who will be trusted with keeping it safe.

Privacy International has asked the Home Affairs Committee and the Public Administration Select Committee to conduct an investigation into the matter.


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