Biometrics in Schools :
A Privacy Information Guide
TL;DR With the identiMetrics finger scanning ID system, no fingerprints are stored. They cannot be recreated from the encrypted numerical template. This encrypted number is associated with the student’s first name, last name, middle initial (optional), student number, grade and school. That's it! All student biometric data resides behind the district’s firewall; nothing is stored in the cloud and there are no third parties who receive any data. The data is only being used to identify students who have enrolled in the identiMetrics system.
- What are biometrics anyway?
- What schools are using biometrics?
- What’s the difference between finger printing & finger scanning?
- How does the identiMetrics finger scanning technology work?
- What are the Top #5 concerns about student privacy and security?
- What are Best Practices in implementing finger scanning biometrics?
- Expert Advice About Introducing Finger Scanning Biometrics: An In-depth Discussion Among K12 Thought Leaders.
Hi! I’m Dr. Jay Fry, President, CEO and co-founder of identiMetrics. I’m a former principal and school administrator. I’m also a dad and advocate for children’s rights, especially privacy rights.
It’s been almost 21 years since we started identiMetrics. I couldn’t find a helpful solution out there for the increasing problems associated with student identification, so I started my own!
We created the identiMetrics Finger Scanning ID System to provide an ideal solution for school administrators so they can identify students, deliver accurate and auditable records and ensure a safer and more secure environment for their students, teachers and staff.
However, as with any digital system, there are privacy concerns and security questions around the collection, use, storage, sharing, and analysis of the data that are generated by these systems. Your concerns are my concerns.
Let’s take a closer look and break the issues down.
What are biometrics anyway?
Biometrics are automated methods of recognizing a person based on a physiological or behavioral characteristic, for example, fingerprint recognition, face recognition, iris recognition, palmprint recognition, speech (soundprint) recognition, vein recognition – anything that’s a part of you. Fingerprint recognition is by far the most adopted technology. The technology is mature, trusted, cost-effective and easy to use.
Biometrics is not a new technology. The ancient Egyptians used bodily characteristics to identify workers to make sure they didn’t claim more provisions than they were entitled – just like companies today are using biometrics to reduce fraud. Chinese merchants in the fourteenth century used palmprints and footprints to identify children.
Fingerprint biometrics began to be scientifically developed at the end of the 19th century and began to come into widespread use in the United States in the early 20th century. By the 1990s, a computerized system of storing and cross-referencing records known as Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems, or AFIS, was being used throughout the country. For example, the National Child Identification Program was launched in 1997 with the goal of using fingerprints to help locate and identify missing children.
Fingerprint identification is the oldest method that has been successfully used for many decades in numerous applications. Each of our ten fingerprints is different from one another and from those of every other person. Even identical twins have unique fingerprints! That’s what makes fingerprints ideal for personal identification.
What schools are using biometrics?
Do you know that biometrics, specifically finger scanning biometrics, have been used in schools in the U.S. for more than 20 years? Here are some biometric statistics:
• There are more than 2 million students who use biometrics every day in their schools in 48 states, U.S. territories and international American Schools.
• The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that students be given enough time to eat their school lunch. Biometrics can speed lunch lines up to 23%. This means enough time to eat and more children who can have a nourishing meal.
• Biometrics can speed tardy student identification and processing up to 93% allowing students to quickly get to class, improving their instructional experience and freeing up valuable staff time to be used for more important educational activities.
• Biometrics for staff time and attendance can significantly improve administrative operations and efficiency by reducing payroll errors, which account for 1% - 7% of total payroll costs annually. Biometrics also prevent time theft, or "buddy punching," which costs up to 7% of gross payroll annually.
• The School Nutrition Association encourages the evaluation of biometric technology to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in school nutrition program management. Check out their Keys to Excellence Best Practices Document.
What’s the difference between finger printing & finger scanning?
There are several significant differences between law enforcement finger printing applications and consumer finger scanning identification software.
Finger printing captures rolled images of all ten fingers. Rolled images capture unique identifying points on the entire finger surface in order to collect the maximum number of unique identifying points. The purpose is to identify suspects based on fingerprint images directly taken from a crime scene.
Finger scanning uses flat images of only two fingers to create templates. Flat images reveal the center of the finger and require only a minimum of unique identifying points in order to make a match. The purpose is to identify a person who has already voluntarily enrolled in the software for the expressed purpose of identification. The identiMetrics system uses finger scanning technology.
How does the identiMetrics finger scanning technology work?
This is how identiMetrics finger scanning works:
When the person returns to be identified, the biometric software again scans the finger. The software now compares the new template with the other templates in the database. When a matching template is found, the person is identified. The whole process takes about one second to complete. No fingerprints are ever stored in the identiMetrics software and cannot be recreated.
What are the Top #5 concerns about student privacy & security?
identiMetrics was developed specifically for the needs and requirements of the K12 education community. Hence, student privacy and security are “baked” into the design. What measures are in place to ensure proper use and protection of biometric data?
Let’s take a deeper dive into the Top #5 most common concerns about privacy and security folks have with the identiMetrics finger scanning ID system.
Concern #1: Where is the data located and how is it secured?
The data is located behind the school district’s firewall with all of the protections you have in place for ALL of your data.
Concern #2: Who has access to the data?
The only people who have access to the data are employees of the school district who have the appropriate permissions to access the data.
Concern #3: How is the data being used?
The data is only being used to identify students in your schools who have enrolled in the identiMetrics system.
Concern #4: What are you doing with the fingerprint?
There are no images of the fingerprint. ZERO. identiMetrics only retains an encrypted string of numbers - the template. Remember, no fingerprints are stored and they cannot be recreated from the encrypted numerical template.
Concern #5: What kind of data are you collecting?
The template is associated with the student’s first name, last name, middle initial (if they have one), student number, grade and school. That’s it! Certainly, much less information that’s found on a lost ID card.
What are Best Practices in implementing finger scanning biometrics?
Student Privacy Pledge
The Future of Privacy Forum and The Software & Information Industry Association introduced the Student Privacy Pledge to safeguard student privacy regarding the collection, maintenance, and use of student personal information. These organizations provide excellent guidelines and resources in the area of student privacy.
A Best Practice is to make sure that your vendors who provide technologies that impact student privacy are signatories of the Student Privacy Pledge. We are proud to say that identiMetrics was an early signatory of the Student Privacy Pledge. We originally signed the Student Privacy Pledge way back in 2014 and remain a current signatory.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate…
Another recommendation is to communicate, educate and train the people who will be involved in your biometric programs. This is usually the weak link in implementing any new technology and implementing biometrics is no different.
Prior to collecting any biometric information, make sure EVERYONE – parents, teachers, students, administrators, the school board and the media have up to date and accurate information about finger scanning and your biometric program. This will ensure the whole process is transparent and runs smoothly and easily.
The cornerstone of implementing any biometric program should be a clear Op-out Policy. A request not to participate in the biometric identification program should be made in writing by the parents. In addition, the choice for the student not to participate in the biometric identification program should not be the basis for refusal of any services otherwise available to the student. Please consult your state's opt-in/opt-out policies.
Expert Advice About Introducing Finger Scanning Biometrics: An In-depth Discussion Among K12 Thought Leaders.
Each of these thought leaders decided to include finger scanning biometrics in their schools for a variety of intentional reasons - accuracy, accountability, speed, ROI, the headache of students sharing PINs or losing cards, privacy benefits. They all were responsible for introducing biometrics to their communities.
IN THIS ROUNDTABLE YOU’LL LEARN:
1. Challenges with parents, school board members or anyone in the community when introducing finger scanning biometrics. 4:00
2. Strategies for dealing with these challenges. 4:24
3. identiMetrics communication materials available in our Resource Center…parent letters, privacy recommendations, etc. 11:53
4. Strategies and recommendations for introducing finger scanning internally to other administrators and decision makers in the district. 20:50
5. Advice to anyone who is interested in bringing identiMetrics to their district. 27:20
Hi! It’s Jay again.
I hope you feel more comfortable knowing more about identiMetrics. Our goal is to protect the privacy of your children, your students and their information.
At the same time, we want to give school administrators a technology tool so they can take control of their student ID management challenges in order to focus more on what they do best - providing an engaging environment for educating students and operating superb programs.
Thank you so much for your time and consideration.
Jay Fry, Ed.D., President & CEO, identiMetrics, Inc.