Facial recognition is on the menu in UK schools


Scottish schoolchildren can now confirm their presence in the canteen by means of facial recognition. — Relaxnews

Some British schools are announcing that they will, for the very first time, use facial recognition technology for the payment of pupils' canteen meals. Although this only concerns a few schools, it presages new uses for a technology that's already well established in some countries, starting with China.

So far, just a handful of schools in North Ayrshire, Scotland, are testing this technology. They believe that it makes transactions both faster (less than five seconds per student) and more hygienic than using a card or a hand scan. In any case, this method avoids pupils' having to carry cash or a card that can be lost or stolen. Moreover, it doesn't require touching any equipment, which is especially important in the age of Covid-19.

In practice, children select their meal, look at the camera to be identified, and then leave to go eat. While this solution is undeniably practical, it nevertheless raises many questions about the protection of personal data. Any such biometric data is intended to be encrypted and stored until the child leaves the school, when it is permanently deleted. Of course, willing parents must give prior consent for their children to participate in this trial. Many other British schools have already expressed interest in this technology.

There are more and more cases of facial recognition being used around the world. Recently, volunteers in Moscow have begun being able to pay for their metro rides by identifying themselves at the gates. In the United States, experiments have already taken place in some schools to identify the presence of expelled students or wanted persons, in order to avoid incidents such as shootings. However, the system is far from being unanimously supported, and the subject of facial recognition divides both the public and politicians.

In France, where cases of use are rare, one trial took place on public streets during the 2019 Nice Carnival, with the aim of identifying certain wanted or dangerous people. The technology is also beginning to be tested in some airports, notably in Lyon and Paris, for certain flights. As in the UK's schools, the data of passengers (volunteers) who accept to take part in the trial is stored momentarily and erased after takeoff.

In the end, only China really uses facial recognition technology in any significant way, in some big cities, in order to monitor individuals' behaviour and spot transgressions like jaywalking - something that remains a long way off in Europe. – AFP Relaxnews

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