'Trivial' use of electronic ID in schools triggers row
SCHOOL bosses have been condemned for using an "intrusive" fingerprinting system for "trivial matters" such as accessing libraries and paying for meals.
New figures reveal that ten primaries and secondaries in the Lothians are using the "worrying" ID systems as part of everyday school life. This makes up 15 per cent of the total usage in Scottish schools.
The practice has been criticised by the Scottish Liberal Democrats - despite Edinburgh's schools being run by a Lib Dem-led council.
In the Capital, four primaries and one secondary are using the biometric identification systems for their electronic libraries. The scheme requires school library staff to scan pupils' thumbprints against biometric readers before allowing them to check out books.
Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Robert Brown MSP described the extent of use of this technology in schools as "really rather worrying".
He said: "If the vast majority of Scotland's schools can let children move round the premises and pay for their lunch without biometric identification, it is difficult to see how it is necessary for these 68 schools.
"Public bodies have shown in the past that they are not always to be trusted with sensitive personal data. If the finger - or palm prints - of children as young as four years old got into the wrong hands, it could have significant consequences. Do we really want this sort of intrusive information taken from young children?"
He added: "Liberal Democrats in Government have scrapped the invidious plans for ID cards. We really don't want to see this coming in through the backdoor through Scottish classrooms."
In addition to the Edinburgh schools, information released under freedom of information laws reveals that three schools in Midlothian are using the technology, with another ten within the authority having the capability to do so.
In West Lothian, two schools are using biometric ID, with one secondary school in West Lothian putting a "hand pad system in place for primary school pupils housed there temporarily to gain access to toilets".The Scottish Government said schools should be "very cautious" about taking the decision to use this kind of ID system.
A spokesman said: "These figures show that only a tiny percentage of Scotland's schools - less than three per cent - use biometrics.
"Our guidance recommends that any local authority or school seeking to introduce them should consult parents at the relevant school, seek consent and allow opt-outs."
Councillor Paul Godzik, Labour's education spokesman in the Capital, said: "It does seem once again that the Lib Dems are happy to say something in opposition, but do the exact opposite when in power.
"Perhaps the Lib Dem education spokesperson in the Scottish Parliament should discuss this matter with council colleagues.
"Of course, if we can use new technology to improve public services and reduce costs then we should be looking to do so. However, as with keeping any personal, information appropriate safeguards must be in place."
A council spokeswoman said: "We are aware of a very small number of schools that are using the technology (eg in libraries), with the consent of parents."
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east