Children to be fingerprinted as part of library loan process

From The Telegraph 28/05/10:

Students in Manchester are having their thumbprints digitally transformed into electronic codes, which can then be recognised by a computer program.

Under the scheme, pupils swipe a bar code inside the book they want borrow then press their thumb on to a scanner to authorise the loan. Books are returned in the same way.

But critics said they were “appalled” at the system, developed by Microsoft which is also being trialled in other parts of the country.

“This is quite clearly appalling,” said Phil Booth, national coordinator of NO2ID, a privacy campaign group.

“For such a trivial issue as taking out of library books the taking of fingerprints is way over the top and wrong.

He added: “The money for such a system could be spent on actual school resources. How about some more books for the library instead?

Things aren’t that simple, of course. If resources are being directed at monitoring loaned books . Potentially, this system could allow for the school library loan processes to be automated to a far greater extent than they are currently.

Overall, I’d say this one isn’t quite as ludicrous as it initially appears. The idea of substituting a library card for a finger print is convenient – particularly for kids. 

"We have researched this scheme thoroughly. It is a biometric recognition system and no image of a fingerprint is ever stored. It is a voluntary system,” she said.

"The thumbprint creates a mathematical template. All parents have been written to and we have told them what the system is all about. From the responses we have had there has been overwhelming support."

If I were a parent, I don’t think I’d have an issue with this.  Moreover, children in schools all around the country are already fingerprinted as part of the payment system for school dinners.  I think NO2ID should focus on frying bigger fish quite frankly.


  1. "Potentially, this system could allow for the school library loan processes to be automated to a far greater extent than they are currently."

    Bear in mind that fingerprints are trivial to forge which makes the whole exercise pointless.

  2. There was a story recently in a certain newspaper which is obsessed with conspiracy theories concerning Princess Diana (and which I would therefore take with a pinch of salt) stating that new born babies' blood tests for various conditions are being used also for storing their DNA in a database. What was worrying about the suggestion was that a) the mother is deemed to consent to this by having a 20-page booklet given to her which explains what happens to the data and b) it does not seem to be possible to have the tests without the data being stored which seems wrong in the NHS which is suppposed to be free at the point of delivery. I doubt many mothers would want to refuse the tests as they could be important to assess the infant's health. I would like to know more about this particular issue. I think the use of fingerprints in a library is a little sinister, but the mass storage of DNA data without consent, even if it is supposedly later destroyed, concerns me more. What is most concerning is that mothers who are informed about their infant's rights and could afford for private tests to be done will be able to assert those rights, but those who are ill informed and poor will not be able to do so.

  3. No worries, I'll bear that mind! :p

    But really, for a school library book?!! :-$

    Think you've been watching too many espionage films! :p

  4. The big civil liberties issue with fingerprinting children to let them buy lunch or get books out of the library is that it inculcates them to hand over a fingerprint for just about anything. If you've been doing it since you were 5 so what if this armed riot police officer is forcing your hand onto an ink pad when you're older? Surely that's just normal? Or you'll hand over a fingerprint when you buy something despite that you're going to need a whole new thumb if your identity gets stolen.

    Really, as far as No2ID is concerned, there really are no bigger fish than the state using biometrics on children.

  5. Yeah, I get that it might condition kids to readily accept they'll need to use their fingerprints for various purposes but isn't the world already half way there already? Or maybe I should not travel to the US any more and tape up the fingerprint reader on my laptop! :-$

    Granted, the robustness of the systems that hold this data and the rules governing the purposes for which it can be used are of critical importance. But using fingerprints per se - even in the case of kids - I really don't have a problem with.

  6. I don't see a huge problem with the use of fingerprints as ID, however i do think it's a bit too extreme for returning a library book. But maybe this is a stepping stone, to many more outlets requiring the same thing. If the fingerprint ID is a success, then why not try it out for other resources.

  7. I knew that the library police was real! :D


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