Biometrics are replacing passwords, helping districts track attendance and being used to grant access to technology. This new type of tech is being touted as a security measure that's especially helpful for young students who often have trouble with passcodes, EdTech: Focus on K-12 reports.
But like many edtech platforms, the use of biometrics brings up concerns about data privacy and storage capacity. Districts need to educate parents on how it's being used and what steps are taken to protect the information it generates.
International Biometrics + Identity Association, a trade group representing the biometrics industry, recommends schools develop rules about who has access to the biometric data. Audits should also be performed to make sure those databases are safe.
Districts are launching biometric initiatives in the hopes that it may cut down on paper work while also improving safety. San Benito Consolidated Independent School District in Texas, for example, spent $178,413 on biometric scanning technology to track hourly staff and K-12 students. The district hopes that the scanning technology will make attendance and payroll more efficient. Meanwhile the district, will also use biometrics to track student tardiness, library check-out and dance and athletic event entrances.
The West Platte School District in Missouri recently installed 95 biometric facial recognition cameras that are linked to law enforcement databases. The cameras can trigger school lock downs if a face from the criminal database is detected. The technology cost the district $200,000.
Though the use of biometrics promises to make schools safer, cut down on redundant paperwork and replace passwords, critics warn that this is another form of data that can be breached and sold on the dark web. Like other forms of edtech, there are many unknowns when it comes to how long student data is stored by vendors and how it is used. In addition, most districts don’t have full-time employees dedicated to protecting student privacy, which can increase the risk that the sensitive information is compromised.
Even if a district has a dedicated, full-time staff member watching out for students’ data, a breach is likely, Boulder Valley School District’s chief information officer Andrew Moore recently told EdTech. He said if data breaches can happen at large corporations like Target, the less-sophisticated education industry is a sitting duck.
This means that the biometric data of fingerprints, irises and facial recognition is another piece of information for data pirates to steal and that school and district leaders should take all precautions to protect against long-term consequences for both students and faculty.