A pressure group has warned of worsening threats to children's rights in the UK from biometric and tracking technologies.
ARCH, Action on Rights for Children, is a not-for-profit organisation run by a group of concerned citizens, including a Professor of Childhood Studies and the borough citizenship coordinator for Tower Hamlets.
Also on the board is the director of the Phoenix Education Trust, "a small national charity which promotes education in which all members of the school community [including pupils] have a voice and real power".
ARCH is concerned that UK schools, parents and educational authorities are too inclined to use tech-based solutions without considering the consequences. In particular, they believe that use of biometric ID systems in schools is getting out of hand, warning of the danger inherent in routinely recording and storing children's fingerprints - or identifiable signatures derived from them.
According to the report they have lately issued:
The fingerprint itself is not stored... Each time a child touches the scanner another template is created and run through the database to check for a near match... Britain is the only country in Europe to use biometric technology extensively in schools.
There are undoubtedly data security implications for the use of biometric systems. Police are able to access school databases to aid in the investigation of crime... A fingerprint is for life and... cannot be replaced as if it were a PIN number... Manufacturers' assurances that data is encrypted are likely to become meaningless with developments in IT and increased computing speed.
Biometric vendors and schools themselves have repeatedly claimed that fingerprints cannot be reconstructed from templates, but even if this were not open to debate, it is a red herring.
The Reg spoke to Terri Dowty, director of ARCH and one of the authors of the report (the other was Pippa King, "a concerned parent who doesn't want her children to live in 1984 type society".)
Ms Dowty felt that parents should encourage their children not to give out unique, lifetime identifiers such as fingerprints for "low-level purposes" such as running school libraries or attendance registers. That said, she also expressed scepticism as to whether fingerprints would ever work in high-level applications such as the proposed National ID cards, as it was trivially easy to copy people's real fingerprints - let alone templates.
So perhaps there's no great need to worry, as fingerprint-backed ID will surely be a total failure?
Dowty was having none of it.
"We don't know for certain that we shouldn't get worried," she said.