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Privacy campaigners condemn rollout of facial recognition in school canteens

PRIVACY campaigners have condemned the rollout of facial recognition in some of Scotland’s school canteens this week. 

As of today, nine schools in North Ayrshire had began taking payment for lunches by scanning the faces of children. 

The system is being billed as a more secure way to process payments and speed up the sale of lunches.

But campaigners and some parents have expressed concerns that it risks normalising the use of surveillance technology, and that children may not have been properly informed of the privacy risks. 

CRB Cunninghams, the firm that installed the systems, said facial recognition cuts the average transaction time to five seconds per pupil.

The schools use an opt-in system for the technology, and children can alternatively use a PIN for verification of payment. Fingerprint-scanning software is already widely used in schools for the purpose of making transactions.

But Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo said: “It’s normalising biometric identity checks for something that is mundane.

“You don’t need to resort to airport-style [technology] for children getting their lunch.”

Campaign group Defend Digital Me argued that the use of facial recognition in schools is an “unnecessary and disproportionate interference” with children’s right to privacy under human rights law. 

The group claimed that the use of the software could therefore be unlawful, citing cases in Sweden and France where data protection authorities ordered schools to stop using it. 

Although 97 per cent of children or their parents consented to the new system, according to North Ayrshire Council, some parents said they were unsure whether pupils had been given enough information to make an informed decision. 

The Department for Education said it does not hold data relating to the use of facial recognition in schools. 

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