Is the lunch line violating student privacy rights?

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Pinellas County Schools was the first in the Country to implement palm scanners as part of a payment system for its schools lunches.  The schools are able to take payment when a child places their hand on the scanner.  The inventor, Fujitsu, says that it is 99% accurate – just like a fingerprint.   And it’s that fingerprint that has parents worried.

Approximately 50 school systems in the United States use a palm scanning or similar system to pay for school lunches.  The benefits are huge – quick payments, accurate, no bullying kids for their lunch money, etc…  But one thing school have not been very good at is protecting the privacy rights of their students.

Existing Student Privacy Rights

With concerns of identity theft on the rise and the lack of ability to protect sensitive data, California passed several regulations to prohibit certain pupil tracking activities and report to end users when data was stolen.

Palm scanners are taking the issue of sensitive data to a whole new level.  Not only are you combining typical sensitive data – name, address, birth date, credit card information; but now you are putting a child biometric in that same system too.  “Schools are going to need to implement a security clearance program” says one dad.  “Just like when you want to work at Northrup Grumman”.  The ACLU tends to agree.

While this technology is great for high security industries like bio-tech and aviation, it seems a little overboard when it comes to school lunches.

Schools should be concerned with technology and how they implement it.  One thing a school should not do is dive head first into this technology without first exploring the cost associated with protecting the sensitive data.  Not to mention, they will need to weigh in the public outrage that comes along with it.

2 thoughts on “Is the lunch line violating student privacy rights?

  1. Federal law for the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs require that students who are eligible for free and/or reduced price meals are not identified as they move through the serving line. Thus many school systems are adopting the system you describe. While there may be issues with parents, the bottom line is that the districts are merely attempting to abide by federal law and at the same time have a system that provides ease in tracking their students.

  2. Ron,

    If that is true, then the palm scanning would be in direct conflict with the regulations. I think we need to dig a little deeper into this one.

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