ENGLEWOOD, N.J. – Parents in New Jersey are sounding off about new fingerprint scanners installed in Englewood schools without their knowledge or permission.
Parent Curtis Caviness and numerous others questioned school officials about the fingerprint scanners installed in the Englewood district this year at a board of education meeting last week, when they pointed out that officials notified parents by robo call with very little information, The Northern Valley Suburbanite reports.
“Where’s this info going, who’s storing it?” Caviness questioned.
Grandparent Lucy Walker had questions, as well, because her grandchildren who bring their lunches to school had been scanning their fingers at lunch when they didn’t need to because the device “looked cool,” she said.
“How do you opt out of something you don’t know about?” Walker asked.
District business administrator Cheryl Balletto assured parents that they shouldn’t be worried about school officials handling sensitive biometric data collected from hundreds of willing children. The technology used in the scanners, she said, doesn’t store the fingerprints themselves but rather a code generated from the fingerprints, according to the news site.
District officials realized last year that they were losing out on a lot of free and reduced-price lunch reimbursements from the federal government, so they installed the fingerprint scanners to keep closer track. Balletto said some students would use their school ID to swipe and buy lunches for other students, and the situation resulted in $100,000 in owned repayments, she said.
“Last year, one of the audit recommendations spoke to the outstanding lunch balances that had been accumulating over the last few years in the district,” she said.
The district website also touts the benefits of scanning fingers, which is accomplished with scanners by “digitialPersona” that are sold by CrossMatch.
“There is no possibility that a student’s meal could be tied to the wrong account,” according to the website. “All students in the district would not have to worry about forgetting a PIN or their ID card.”
The website also states that students who bring their lunch from home need not participate, and parents can opt their children out of the program. Those who opt out but still want school lunch can simply state their name and the cafeteria workers will look up their account.
Regardless of the district’s intentions to streamline the lunch line, privacy experts have also raised alarms against using biometric data, in Englewood and numerous other school districts, because of very real security issues.
“If and when these identifies are compromised, that causes really serious privacy threats to the victim,” Claire Gartland, attorney with the Electronic Policy Information Center, told the Suburbanite.
Parents and privacy experts have also spoken out against biometric scanners – from iris, palm and face scanners to fingerprint devices – in schools in numerous other places, including schools in Canton, Ohio; Oregon City, Oregon; Lake Zurich and Geneva, Illinois; New Albany, Indiana; Hazle Township, Pennsylvania; Encinitas, California; among others, EAGnews reports.