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Parents' court action threat over finger scanning

Published date: 11 September 2012 |
Published by: Jim Green
Read more articles by Jim Green


Blacon High School introduced the Impact Biometric cashless catering system in June 

Blacon High School 

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CAMPAIGNERS fighting a ‘Big Brother’-style scanning system for Chester schoolchildren say they will take their fight to the High Court if necessary.

Blacon High School introduced the Impact Biometric cashless catering system in June, which requires a photograph and finger scan of pupils who opt into the scheme.

But the futuristic technology has proved deeply unpopular with some parents who want the new system scrapped.

They claim pupils’ sensitive personal data is being put at risk and are angry about the way the cashless system was brought in.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) joined the parents’ campaign and paid for leaflets to be distributed to homes in Blacon.

UKIP national executive committee member and London-based barrister Steven Woolfe has now agreed to help parents and UKIP Chester chairman Peter Lowe take the fight forward.

Mr Lowe said the campaigners were not ruling out mounting a legal challenge to the biometric system.

He said: “People are becoming more aware about the dangers and the issues.

“It is only after children have had their fingerprint scanned that parents realise what the implications are. It is completely wrong and I think the school has been extremely heavy-handed.

“We will see how things pan out and we do not know how our campaign is going to finish.

“It is similar to the campaign against ID cards in that things are starting to snowball.”

Mr Lowe said the Blacon High School campaign was at the forefront of a national campaign relating to schools’ use of biometric data.

He said: “The parents in Blacon have done a lot of work but this is not just an issue about Blacon now. There are more profound things to address.

“The UKIP annual conference takes place in Birmingham later this month and this will be given a good airing then.

“If enough people say ‘no’ then the education ministers will  have no choice but to get rid of these systems and bring in more acceptable alternatives.”

Blacon High School headteacher Sue Yates said all parents were sent information specifically explaining how the cashless system works.

She said: “This makes it clear it is not a fingerprint as used by the police. It is an image that is a mathematical algorithm which simply shows the measurement of the finger.

“It states specifically that data is not held by the school and is discarded as soon as the image is taken and only the numbers are retained which cannot be reinterpreted back into the finger’s image.

“When a pupil leaves school the algorithm is deleted from the school system.
Mrs Yates said the system would ensure a “quicker and more efficient process” in the school’s diner and bistro.

“It is a system that is frequently used in other schools and indeed many other schools in the borough and nationally have already introduced this system successfully,” she said.

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