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Authorities differ on finger scanning

September 6, 2013
By Michael Green Fonte - Staff Writer , The Inter-Mountain

Editor's Note: This is the second article in a two-part series looking at the Barbour County school system's new finger-scanning program.

On Monday, the Barbour County school system will begin scanning Philip Barbour High School students' fingerprints as part of the school lunch program. Education officials and the company providing the technology stand behind the safety of the process, but can the scanning system be abused?

Can the biodata be shared?

School officials promise to never allow the students' fingerprint data to be given to outside parties, including law enforcement. While they may be able to stand by their promise to never voluntarily share the students' data, an unforeseen event may force them to cooperate with law enforcement and the justice system.

A subpoena, a search warrant or a federal administrative search warrant can force a school official to hand over any school records, including biometric data.

It has also been stressed by supporters of finger scanning that the minutiae data collected by the process would be useless to anyone who got their hands on it. However, members of the biometrics community, including Arun Ross, associate professor of computer science and engineering at Michigan State University and adjunct professor at West Virginia University, have repeatedly shown that minutiae can be used to reconstruct fingerprints.

According to a group opposed to finger scanning called Leave Them Kids Alone (LTKA), "The U.S. government's official National Science & Technology Council says you can reconstruct a fingerprint image from a fingerprint template.

"Government security experts have successfully hacked the fingerprint scanners used in schools," a LTKA representative told a British newspaper. "Schools cannot possibly provide the level of security necessary to protect children's data. A school might not even be aware that children's data had been compromised until it was far too late."

Other uses by schools?

The Barbour County school system plans to only use the biodata for cafeteria purposes, but some principals may be tempted to use it for other functions.

IdentiMetrics scanners, the brand to be used in Barbour County, were added to the lunch lines in Licking Heights, Ohio. The local newspaper, The Newark Advocate, reported that food service director Ginger Parsons said, "You can also use it to know, for security, who is in your building."



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