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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Big Brother Comes to Emery Unified

Is Your Child's Biometric Data Safe?

The Tattler has learned that dozens of Anna Yates Elementary students were rounded up today by school officials and fingerprinted in order to have their biometric data stored in a government database. What crimes were these nine year olds convicted of? accused of? suspected of?  None.  Instead, this is the price our children must pay for access to Emery Unified's School Lunch Pogrom Program.

Emery knows what
its doing, right?
What could possibly
go wrong?
The new system was "announced" to some parents via a letter sent home during the last week of school last school year, in June of 2014.  Parents that are new to the District this year may not have heard anything about this program or been given any advance notice of the District's intentions (one Anna Yates parent told us he did not receive the letter at the end of last year either and only learned of the letter from other parents).

Parents have the ability to "opt out" of the biometric scanning of their children, but must request the opt out form from the District.

Parents nationwide have objected to similar programs, some bringing lawsuits to prevent the practice, and the ACLU has often gotten involved. The concerns expressed include:
  • Given the prevalence these days of data breaches, what guarantees do we have that our children's biometric data will not fall into the hands of malicious third parties?
  • What sort of message does it send to our children when we tell them that they have to submit to a government-initiated data collection procedure about their own unique biological markers?
  • Doesn't the entire procedure of fingerprinting, especially in a largely minority school District, evoke images of assumed criminality that our District has pledged to oppose and prevent?
  • How much money is the District spending on this technology parents don't want when the District is not spending money on other technologies that would actually assist in student learning?
  • Were less intrusive alternatives considered? Student ID cards? Anonymous value cards?
  • What happens when a student leaves the District? What guarantees do we have that the stored biometric data will be destroyed?
  • Why weren't parents given much more explicit notification about this?
  • Districts and companies that produce the biometric technologies often argue that "fingerprints" per se are not stored by their systems, merely unique points within the fingerprint represented digitally.  These responses seem to ignore that a unique identifier is a unique identifier.  If the system works at all, then it contains personal, private, biological data about our children.  Data that should not be collected or stored without much more explicit notification.  Data that the District should never have proposed to gather to begin with.


  1. Oh my God. What is wrong with the leadership of this District?

  2. You are so full of it. Welcome, "Big Brother". If the kids have nothing to hide, an archive of this data, is for their benefit. Are you blind? Don't be so anal.

    1. What about the kids that have something to hide? Now we've got them! These fingerprints will help us catch them and send 'em straight to the gallows.
      All the other kids, the ones with nothing to hide? As we said, what could possibly go wrong?

    2. The "nothing to hide" argument? Really? You haven't given this any thought at all, have you?

      Daniel Solove, "Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have 'Nothing to Hide'"

      Bruce Schneier, "The Eternal Value of Privacy"

      Toby Stevens, "Debunking a myth: If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear"

      Moxie Marlinspike, "Why ‘I Have Nothing to Hide’ Is the Wrong Way to Think About Surveillance"

      Rick Falkvinge, "Debunking The Dangerous 'If You Have Nothing To Hide, You Have Nothing To Fear'"

  3. You're making something out of nothing (as usual you are sensationalizing and stretching the truth). The data is not stored in some government database. It is wiped out every time after it's used. I think that was explained in the parent letter. Technology can be safely used to make organizations more productive and effective. Bravo to the school district for not being afraid. Fear seems to rule some of us (often).

    1. By all means, go ahead and get your child fingerprinted by Emery Unified. You make a point; how could thins go wrong? So...go ahead....they're waiting...please....feel first...don't let me stop you....after you....

    2. You don't seem to understand technology very well, Anonymous @ 4:44. How can their fingerprints be matched against something to know whether they are eligible for free/reduced-price lunch, or to deduct from their account, if the data is erased every time? There would be nothing to match against if it were erased every time. If there's nothing to match against, then you might as well just get a spool of paper numbers like at the meat counter and students can pull a number as they enter the line and then drop it in a basket after they get their food and walk into the cafeteria. There MUST be a database to match against or the whole system fails.