Florida Senator targets biometrics in schools

10/4/13. Hukill targets biometrics in schools.  James Call, Thefloridacurrent.

“A Polk County school incident this year had parents brushing up on George Orwell and led Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, to write two bills designed to keep Big Brother away from children. 

Hukill’s SB 232 would prohibit schools from collecting any biometric information from students while SB 188 would set policies and procedures for how school districts may create digital records of each student’s unique characteristics such as facial features, irises, finger and palm prints and DNA.

SB 188 would require each school district and superintendent to set guidelines on what kind of information may be collected, who takes it, how it is stored and who has access to it.

“And the parents have to opt in, give permission for the information to be taken from their child,” Hukill said of SB188.

The business of using biological markers to identify people is booming. The business research company Acuity Market Intelligence predicts sales of eye and facial recognition systems will grow from $4 billion to $11 billion annually by 2017.

In May, Polk County School District launched a pilot program with Stanley Convergent Security Solutions — which recently purchased Niscayah, a European security firm, for $1.2 billion. Stanley scanned the irises of 750 students who ride a school bus. Parents weren’t notified in advance.

“Who would even think a school would take this kind of information from children?” Hukill said. “We’ve had children get on buses and go through lunch lines for years without taking their biometric information. Why do we need to do this? And if we are going to do this then why not have a policy in effect? ”

The Polk experiment ended when parents protested. A Lakeland Ledger investigation indicated Stanley personnel were given access to the children without a contract in place or apparent knowledge of the interim school superintendent.

The combination of digital technology and biological markers is rapidly spreading to many uses. The latest iPhone can be unlocked with a fingerprint. Pharmacists and hospitals are using biometrics to track patient’s prescriptions. The market has grown to such an extent that legislatures in at least three other states are also considering proposals to set guidelines. The new technology is opening a frontier of privacy concerns.

Retailers can use it to see what catches a consumer’s eye when they walk through a store and then target ads toward the consumer. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is developing technology to use security cameras to pinpoint criminals and suspect in large crowds. However, researchers caution that the technology is not foolproof. Fingerprints and other biological markers can be copied and provide access to personal information. And biometric markers once compromised cannot be replaced like a password or ID card.

“You can’t change your biometric information — it’s you,” said Hukill, who thinks it is not appropriate for schools to collect biometric information. “No one ever thought we would have identity theft when we began using personal information to open bank accounts and credit cards.”

Neither of Hukill’s bills has a House companion at this time.”

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