By Mark O’Neill
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
A political row is erupting in Scotland after it emerged that 8,300 Scottish schoolchildren are to be biometrically fingerprinted at a cost of 20,000 pounds ($37,300) per school per year. As well as the staggering cost, angry parents are also voicing their opposition to the Big Brother privacy intrusions into their children’s lives.
It’s all part of a pilot scheme which is being tested at eight secondary schools (high schools) at East Dunbartonshire. Supporters of the scheme are citing the advantages of the fingerprinting database including class attendance monitoring, better monitoring of library book borrowing and the buying of school meals (and the end of stigma for those who receive free meals).
One government minister even went on television when I was on holiday in Scotland last week to say that a major benefit of the scheme was that when school bullying occurred, they would have the fingerprints on file to say who did what and they would then be able to track down the bully or bullies involved. I’m sorry but I just don’t personally see teachers dusting down a scene, lifting prints like a crime scene tech and matching them to ones on a database. I don’t see stressed-out over-worked teachers being that diligent – and if a bully thinks there is a chance of his or her prints being lifted, what’s to stop them wearing gloves?
Critics are predictably raising the spectre of George Orwell and 1984, asking who would be controlling the information and what would be done with it. They are also kicking up a fuss about the cost, saying this sudden influx of cash should be better spent on books and other educational materials.
If your child was to be biometrically fingerprinted at school, would you allow it? Or would you refuse, just as a matter of principle? Do you see any positive aspects to this scheme or is it all a waste of money?
If it was my child, I wouldn’t allow it. I see this as a gross intrusion of privacy. I was biometrically photographed at Heathrow Airport and for some reason it still unsettles me 6 days later. Maybe part of me wonders where that photo is being stored now? This fingerprint scheme is no different. If someone took my child’s fingerprint, where would it go? What would be done with it? To quote an oft-used phrase “a slippery slope”