FL Lawmaker Files Bill Banning Schools from Biometric Data Collection

In Florida, some K-12 schools are using biometric data gathering technology such as eye scanning and electronic fingerprinting devices to collect students’ identifying information based on physical characteristics. That student data is being used to track student lunch payments, record attendance, monitor the use of library books and school buses, and also to follow student movements while on campus. But a state lawmaker wants to stop the use of technology in K-12 schools that raises questions about data privacy.

Florida State Sen. Dorothy Hukill on October 8th field a bill designed to prohibit K-12 public schools in the state from collecting any electronic data on students’ physical characteristics, according to William Patrick of Florida Watchdog.

The bill, SB 232, describes biometric information as anything resulting from the non-invasive electronic measuring of students, including fingerprinting, palm scans, eye and facial recognition and even voice tones.

“There are currently no established policies for collecting the data used in these applications,” Hukill said in a statement. “There is no way of knowing if the information being provided is given with parental consent or if the data is being kept in a secure manner.

The Polk County School District launched an iris scans pilot program in May. The district required 750 students to undergo iris scans to ride school buses. Parents could have opted out but they mistakenly received notification of the program managed by a private security company.

“I think that’s nutty,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington, D.C., based nonprofit. “You do that with prisoners when they’re moving between prison facilities.”

Stanley Convergent Security Solutions, which performed the eye scanning of Polk County’s students, on its website explains iris scanning as “a proven biological constant” form of identification second only to DNA.

Pinellas County schools have used infrared palm scanning devices for more than two years to track students who receive federally subsidized lunches.

“The key problem with biometric identifiers is that they’re unique and unchangeable,” Rotenberg said. “That makes it possible to link together a great deal of information about individuals that typically they are not aware of,” Rotenberg added.

Biometric data collection in public schools was also opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. Also, the Electronic Privacy Information Center warns of risks posed by third parties companies who conduct the data gathering and store the information.