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Privacy Fears Raised Over School Dinner Fingerprint Payments

Sinead Donnelly


Digital finger print

A controversial East Dunbartonshire fingerprinting initiative, in which school children purchase lunches with their fingerprints, has sparked outrage among parents.

Secondary school children in East Dunbartonshire can now access a lunch fund set up by their parents or guardians by simply presenting their fingerprint at the till.

The cashless scheme has been met with a backlash from furious parents who fear for their children’s privacy.

East Dunbartonshire Council has emphasised that it will do its upmost to ensure data protection risks are kept to a minimum.

However, in a detailed letter to parents, the Council also highlighted that computer systems cannot be guaranteed as “100% secure”.

One anxious father said: “I’m really unhappy at the thought of my 11-year-old daughter’s fingerprint being held on a council IT database.

“Massive blue-chip companies get their IT databases hacked or security breached – and they have the facility to spend millions on IT security.

“So, considering these times of austerity we live in, I’m pretty sure that the council IT systems are not at a level of security that they should be even considering retaining children’s identity, especially for something as simple as paying for their school dinner.”

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A randomly generated four-digit pin number option is also available for youngsters whose parents or guardians do not wish them to partake in the initiative. However, East Dunbartonshire Council has stated that this alternative is less reliable than fingerprinting.

Despite immense disapproval from campaigners, including Big Brother Watch, fingerprint ID tech has become increasingly sought-after across Scotland. Angus, Edinburgh, West Lothian and East Ayrshire have already implemented the effortless fingerprint till transactions.

Depute chief executive of education, people & business for the council, Ann Davie, said that students’ data is of “paramount importance” to the council, adding that the council will continue to review its “data protection policies in line with current legislation”.

In 2006, Todholm Primary, Paisley, Renfrewshire, was the first ever primary school to implement a revolutionary palm-scanning scheme.

The cashless system was originally introduced by East Dunbartonshire Council in 1998 and has had numerous technology updates, including the current fingerprint programme.

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Sinead Donnelly


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