Schools start using FACIAL RECOGNITION on students to take lunch payments


Schools start using FACIAL RECOGNITION to take lunch payments as campaigners and parents complain students weren’t warned about privacy risks

  • Schools in North Ayrshire say the system will speed-up school dinner service
  • Parents are concerned students haven’t been informed about privacy risks
  • Nine schools are using the new software which is considered more hygienic
  • New York banned schools from using the technology in December 2020 because it misidentifies women and people of colour










Nine schools in Scotland have today started using facial recognition on students to speed up school lunchtimes.

The system, which has been implemented at sites across North Ayrshire, will allow schools to take payments from children using facial recognition.

It is said to speed up transactions and reduce queues and is also considered to be a more hygienic approach than card payments and fingerprints in a post-Covid world.

However, parents and campaigners have expressed concerns regarding the privacy of children, and believe students haven’t been properly warned about the potential dangers of facial recognition. 

Twitter was awash with people responding to the news.  

@NckDrk wrote: ‘Spending money on facial recognition in schools just in case a kid steals a meal rather than just spending that money on giving kids free school meals is obviously completely normal and logical’

The system, which has been implemented in nine schools across North Ayrshire, Scotland, will allow schools to take payments from children using facial recognition (file image)

The system, which has been implemented in nine schools across North Ayrshire, Scotland, will allow schools to take payments from children using facial recognition (file image)

Parent Nick Payne said: ‘My kids’ school uses a fingerprint ID system for canteen payments, which works fine & isn’t anywhere near as sinister. 

So why can’t they just do that, rather than going for facial recognition – which also has significant issues with non-white faces?’

Caroline Kenyon added: ‘Surely we need air filtration units in schools, not face recognition? The priorities of this government are utterly skewed.’

Despite the concerns, North Ayrshire council say 97% of children or their parents consented to the use of facial recognition in schools.

Lauding the benefits, David Swanston, the managing director of CRB Cunninghams – the company that provided the system – told the Financial Times: ‘It’s the fastest way of recognising someone at the till.

Parents and campaigners have expressed concerns regarding the privacy of children, and believe students haven't been properly warned about the potential dangers of facial recognition

Parents and campaigners have expressed concerns regarding the privacy of children, and believe students haven’t been properly warned about the potential dangers of facial recognition

‘In a secondary school you have about a 25-minute period to serve potentially 1,000 pupils. So we need fast throughput at the point of sale.’ 

Fraser Simpson, Biometrics Commissioner for England and Wales says if there is a less intrusive way for children to pay for their lunches, then that method should be used instead, Sky News reported.

In New York, schools have been banned from using the technology till at least July 2022 because the technology frequently misidentifies women and people of colour, therefore heightening the risk discrimination for people in those groups.  

Responding to developments in Ayrshire, campaigners are concerned that the technology exposes people to potential arrest without reasonable cause. 

Silkie Carlo, the head of civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, told MailOnline: ‘No child should have to go through border style identity checks just to get a school meal. 

‘We are supposed to live in a democracy, not a security state. This is highly sensitive, personal data that children should be taught to protect, not to give away on a whim.

‘This biometrics company has refused to disclose who else children’s personal information could be shared with and there are some red flags here for us.’

She added: ‘Facial recognition technology typically suffers from inaccuracy, particularly for females and people of colour, and we’re extremely concerned about how this invasive and discriminatory system will impact children.

‘We’ve written to a number schools who are using this facial recognition system to set out our legal concerns and urge that they immediately stop.’

In the UK, police have been using facial recognition since 2015 to prevent and detect crime by helping officers find wanted criminals.

The system has been used in a range of environments to identify individuals in a crowd, from E-Gates at airports to Notting Hill Carnival.

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