Several schools in Scotland started using facial recognition software on Monday, to verify the pupils identities when paying for school meals.
Is this not proof that Britain’s surveillance creep has gone too far?
The system has been installed in nine schools in North Ayrshire where payments for school lunches will be taken by scanning the faces of students.
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The schools claim that using the technology is quicker and more hygienic than paying with cards or fingerprint scanners.
A flyer which had been sent to parents stated: “With Facial Recognition, pupils simply select their meal, look at the camera and go, making for a faster lunch service whilst removing any contact at the point of sale”
Metro reports: The company that installed the systems claim they are more Covid-secure and help speed up the queue, with each transaction now taking just five seconds, The Financial Times reported.
David Swanston, the managing director of CRB Cunninghams, the company that installed the systems, told the FT: ‘In a secondary school you have around about a 25 minute period to serve potentially 1,000 pupils. So we need fast throughput at the point of sale.’
But privacy campaigners claim it further normalises the technology which is often used without the consent of those being tracked.
Facial recognition software is most commonly used at airports by border control and by police to look for criminals.
But it has also been installed on people’s mobile phones and is used by social networking sites to help organise photographs of friends and family.
In schools, the software has been used to track attendance – leading to a backlash in some areas like New York State, who have temporarily banned the practice.
In England, it is up to schools whether to use the technology or not and the Department of Education says it keeps no data on how widespread facial recognition is.
North Ayreshire council claims the majority of parents have given consent for the system because they recognise that it makes the process easier.
But campaigners say less intrusive methods should be preferred.
Activist Silkie Carlo of pro-privacy group Big Brother Watch argued the biometric lunch setup was a dangerous step down a slippery slope, “normalizing biometric identity checks for something that is mundane.”
“You don’t need to resort to airport-style [technology] for children getting their lunch,” she said.
Fraser Sampson the Biometrics Commissioner for England and Wales has also cautioned against deploying technology for technology’s sake. “If there is a less intrusive way, that should be used“
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