Privacy considerations if using biometrics in schools (DET Mail 20190205)

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5/02/2019

DET Mailout. Feb 05, 2019 | SCHOOLS NEED TO KNOW

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You may have seen recent media items on the use of ‘biometrics’ in schools for functions such as monitoring and will be aware that there is significant community concern about privacy issues generally.

Biometrics are human characteristics, such as facial dimensions, iris scans, and palm prints. Some new technologies capture this information as part of their standard functionality in, for example, check-in kiosks using palm prints or attendance devices that use facial recognition, and the benefits and risks of these technologies need to be carefully weighed up before using them.

To use this sort of information, particularly that of children, requires detailed consideration of how the information will be collected, used, stored and shared and how it will be protected, as well as significant consultation with parents, students and staff. The Department has conducted an analysis of the technology associated with biometrics, which has found there to be a number of risks with using it.

While privacy obligations do not absolutely prohibit the use of biometric technologies in schools, if you are considering the use of biometrics at your school – even as a trial – you are reminded that you must:

  • conduct a privacy impact assessment with support from the Department’s privacy team
  • check the contract and terms and conditions, and assess how they comply with Department policies, see:
  • undertake a significant consultation process with parents, students and other members of the school community
  • assess the benefits of biometric technology in real terms, in comparison to current practices and weigh them against potential risks.

This information must be provided to the Department’s privacy team before progressing with any technology.

For more guidance, and support to undertake a thorough assessment, contact the privacy team via email: privacy@edumail.vic.gov.au

By Billie Stewart

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