Biometric Data Collection in Schools


Biometrics is the “measurement of unique and distinctive physical, biological and behavioral characteristics used to confirm the identity of individuals (Pirlot, 2013) ”. The methods of collection involve finger scanning, facial recognition, hand scanning, and eye scanning. In exploring the owners of the data collected, laws in intellectual property rights and law enforcement, data in the public domain and children as human capital, issues are revealed that highlight the dangers of corporate ownership of data collected which has the potential to limit the choices and scope of employment for our young people.

1.      Owners of data collected- Data collected in the biometric system used by Northam Senior High School is collected by Biostore a subsidiary to Foxtel Library owned by Rupert Murdoch. Other relevant subsidiaries include: Softlink, Overdrive,, Cickview, Library Thing, Meet the Author, Microsoft Certified Partner, Moodle, Bowker Pearson, Success Maker-Enterprise, Thorpe-Bowker, Ed Alliance, Scis-Cataloging Service, DVC, and TV Digital Library.

2.      Intellectual property rights- Under new laws currently being negotiated by our government and the 12 nations Trans Pacific Partnerships treats, stated in the TPP Advanced Intellectual Property chapter (2013) Article QQ.A.9: nations propose that (a) “practices that unreasonably restrain trade or adversely affect the international transfer of technology and (b) anticompetitive practices may result in abuse of intellectual property rights”, because Rupert Murdoch owns the data he has all rights to trade that data with whomever he desires . Therefore if the data collected was to be traded then no law will protect the privacy of our children under the property rights Act.

3.      Law enforcement – In Article QQ.A.10: (Transparency) it states that public or private enterprises with commercial interests would not be required to disclose confidential information which would impede law enforcement. This means those enterprises are not required to disclose the use of the data collected or be laid accountable for any misconduct in the use of the data, this includes Northam Senior High School and other schools which have signed up for the biometric data collection system.

4.      Data in the public domain- Article QQ.A.11: (Application of Agreement to Existing Subject Matter and Prior Acts) states that “a party shall not be required to restore protection to subject matter that on the date of entry into force of the Agreement has fallen into the public domain,” so once the data is in the public domain there are no laws to protect the children’s data, and no way of restoring the protection of that data.

5.      Children as human capital- Agenda 21 (1992), United Nations Sustainable Development: chpt 3, Combating Poverty: Objectives 3.4 (a) “development plans and budgets on investments in human capital with special policies and programs directed at rural areas, urban poor, women and children.” 3.7 “promoting sustainable livelihoods” with activities stated in 3.5 “to integrate promote sustainable livelihoods and environmental protection covering a variety of sectoral interventions involving actors, from local to global, at every level”.

With investment by governments and corporations in ‘human capital’ special policies and programs directed at our children that promotes sustainable livelihoods, suggests that governments and corporations are making deals on education that will direct ‘human capital’ into livelihoods that will serve the corporate interests and limit the choices of educational programs, thus limiting the scope of employment.


When taking these facts into consideration and the fact that biometric data collection includes the “measurement of unique and distinctive physical, biological and behavioral characteristics used to confirm the identity of individuals” (Pirlot, 2013) we cannot ignore the negative impact that has on our children’s basic human rights. The ethical impacts of identification programs need to be considered. The potential for the trade of biometric data between corporations is a major concern as new Intellectual property rights come into play. This system has the potential to discriminate against race, genetics, medical and mental or physical disabilities and even geographical information has the potential to set individuals into category systems that will judge them on socio-economic origin. New transparency and protection laws will also void the liability of data owners, miners, and corporations in the use of data shared. These laws render personal privacy void. Children are being traded as ‘human capital’ for implementing programs that will benefit governments and corporations; this does little for personal autonomy and human desire. Biometric technology can be used as a tool for surveillance through profiling and data mining, so one seeking autonomy may find it difficult to find employment outside the programs implemented by governments and there corporate partners. 


Pirlot Alexandrine (2013) Biometrics: friend or foe of privacy? Privacy International retrieved November 2013.


Author unknown. United Nations Sustainable Development: United Nations Conference on Environment & Development Rio de Janerio, Brazil, 3 to 14 June 1992.


Secret TPP treaty: Advanced Intellectual Property chapter for all 12 nations with negotiating positions 2013.


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