Tag Archives: five ways

Authoritarian Culture

This is something I have to blog about just because I find it so utterly outrageous that I can’t quite contain it.

My old school (King Edward VI Five Ways, for those playing at home) has recently announced plans to introduce a “biometric cashless catering system”. They plan to scan the fingerprints of pupils, produce a hash of the data, and use that for access to the pupil’s account on the catering system.

I actually wish I was making this up. There are plans to convert the library over to this system, and to use it for sixth form registration, as well as plans further out to control access to school buildings.

This is so far beyond objectionable that it’s not even funny. The headmaster was always a bit of a ridiculously pompous bastard, but even he’s outdone himself this time. There is nothing in any of these proposals that couldn’t have been done equally as well with a card-with-RFID-chip system, no doubt for a much smaller price tag, which would save the need for a biometric database.

The inherent privacy issues of the school keeping such a database of fingerprint data are extremely troubling; sure, it’s a one-way hash, the original fingerprint can’t be recovered from what they store, but any given fingerprint can still be run against that database to find matches; the system wouldn’t work at all otherwise. I have a terrible feeling the school wouldn’t be too bothered by police requests to hand over any such information.

It deeply disturbs me that our culture as a whole seems to be bowing to the notion that organisations should have ever more information about us. I would say expecting children to hand over their fingerprints is crossing a really rather serious line.

Now, to calm down, a picture of a sleeping cat:

cat