Nine British schools start using facial recognition for lunch checkout

Nine British schools started using facial recognition for checkout in the cafeteria on Monday. The step should make the payment faster, the schools reason. Critics think the technique normalizes facial scans and oppose it.

It concerns nine schools in the southwest of Scotland, the Financial Times writes. The intention is that students can pay for their lunch within five seconds and that saves time compared to PIN codes or fingerprint scanners, the schools say. The facial scans are encrypted with AES-256 and stored on the schools’ servers.

The school umbrella says that 97 percent of students have given permission for the facial scan to be saved. According to parents, it is possible that students did not receive sufficient information to make a good choice. Facial recognition is not mandatory, according to a faq.

One of the critics is Fraser Simpson, who holds the role of Biometrics Commissioner, an independent UK government regulator to monitor government use of biometric tools. Simpson says schools should use other methods of authentication if possible.

Civil rights organization Big Brother Watch and the creator of the Biometrics in School blog also express doubts about the use of facial scanners to the business newspaper. They say it normalizes that technology, getting kids used to using it for something everyday like buying lunch. In Europe, regulators called for a general ban on facial recognition this summer. That would not matter to Scottish schools, because the United Kingdom is no longer part of the EU.

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