Concerns raised about UK schools biometric data security
07 September 2012
Posted by Satvir Bhullar
Fears that the data protection standards being employed in UK schools are not stringent enough and may lead to further problems when it comes to safeguarding biometric details have been raised in a new report.
The study by researchers in the UK discovered that almost half of the educational establishments surveyed had policies on protecting information relating to children that were below the current standards required.
In their report, the teams from the Universities of East Anglia and Plymouth warned that approaches to data protection in schools were "inconsistent and sometimes eccentric", with "potentially serious implications".
According to the research, many institutions are failing to meet their duties in this area and some had no policies at all in place to handle personal details relating to pupils.
The study examined 1,059 schools and noted they often failed to take legal advice about the storage of biometric data, while incoming student teachers were found to have a "relaxed attitude towards online security themselves", indicating the problem may worsen.
“;If this information gets into the wrong hands, it can have big consequences for individuals. Yet security levels in schools are inconsistent," commented Dr Sandra Leaton Gray of the University of East Anglia.
In May this year, Government guidance was published stating that schools in England must obtain written permission from parents before biometric data is collected from pupils, as well as the agreement of students.
This includes information such as fingerprints and iris scans, with such details thought to be held by around one in three English secondary schools.
A consultation has been held on the advice, which is scheduled to come into effect from September 2013.
"I have heard from many angry parents after they have learned that their children's personal data was being used by schools without their knowledge," stated Schools Minister Nick Gibb.
He added that people should have an understanding about the importance of data protection from a young age.