Campaign win: NSW School asked to halt kids’ fingerprint scanning

In early September it was reported that a high school in Sydney was scanning kids’ fingerprints to access the bathroom.

In response, Digital Rights Watch raised the alarm in the media (in The Guardian, Junkee and on Channel 9 News). We also wrote a letter directly to the NSW Department of Education and the NSW Privacy Commissioner to highlight our concerns.

Collecting and using children’s biometric information is an unreasonable invasion of privacy and creates an unnecessary digital security risk.

We have since heard back from the NSW Department of Education which has acknowledged the risk, and have asked the school to halt the use of the tech.

We also heard from the NSW Privacy Commissioner, who shared our concerns about the significant privacy issues raised by our letter and the media reports. The Commissioner is now actively engaging with the NSW Department of Education to ensure compliance with NSW privacy law.

This shows that when we raise the alarm and put pressure on government we can stop harmful surveillance. We need to keep up the fight to protect human rights by stopping biometric surveillance everywhere.

The use of biometric surveillance — from fingerprint scanning to facial recognition — is on the rise. This isn’t the first time surveillance tech has been trialled on children in schools, and it won’t be the last. With your ongoing support, we will continue to watch for, and fight back against, infringements on our digital rights.

Sadly, these responses don’t mean it’s the last we’ll see of fingerprint scanning or other surveillance technologies being used on children. We intend to continue to engage with both the NSW Department of Education and the NSW Privacy Commissioner as this issue progresses, to urge both to ensure that biometric surveillance has no place in schools.