I was asked yesterday to visit Gloucestershire county council to discuss the use of biometrics in schools. The council have set up a committee with the responsibility of forming a policy around the use of biometrics in the county; I must congratulate Gloucestershire here as they are the first government body that I'm aware of that are actually attempting to tackle this issue fully. Currently schools are allowed to spend their money as they wish, which in one sense is great but on the other side there is always the worry that can a head of a school actually devote sufficient time to do full due diligence on a piece of technology. Certainly in the case of biometrics a lot of the issues are not obvious and present new challenges to the school such as correctly disposing of the data in a safe and secure manor, understanding the potential long term consequences of how the data may be used and abused in the future. These issues require you to be a technologist at minimum but really require someone to be a technologist visionary.
Investing time and effort in understanding the implications of biometrics does not need to be done by every school, it needs to be done centrally were money can be spent employing the experts from both sides of the argument to present a balanced and informed view, that will further enable the decision makers to make an efficient and informed decision. This information needs to be made available in a prominent place, and not buried on some government web site.
I also think it's important here to include parents in the decision making process, providing them with the information in a clear and concise form. There is precedence here, it's pretty well accepted that smoking is bad for you, people can still smoke but the government takes the responsible act of making it very clear that this could affect your long term life expectancy. Perhaps a similar mandatory warning should be made on all acceptance forms for biometric systems, just above the signature line.
"WARNING: Some experts feel that in the future it will be possible for this information to be used to steal your child's identity"
All I'm asking for is a fair representation of the facts, surely we owe it to all decision makers to make both arguments equally available and allow them to make the decision based on the full range of facts.