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Privacy & Data

California school bus service eyes biometric technology for pupils

Christian Science Monitor’s Passcode:

The topic of school safety evokes a visceral response from parents, teachers, administrators, and lawmakers. It’s the subject of Gallup polls, nonprofit mission statements, and countless studies, all attempting to make campuses and schools more secure.

For several southern California schools, the latest attempt comes in the form of biometrics.

The Antelope Valley Schools Transportation Agency (AVSTA), which serves four school districts in the Lancaster, Calif. area, is testing iris scanning devices on three special needs buses this semester through December. It’s meant to ensure that no student is accidentally left on the bus. Though the trial has been a few months in the making, the death of a special needs student in September in Whittier, Calif., who died of unknown causes after being accidentally left on a school bus, fortified the transportation agency’s efforts to find a solution to keep something like that from happening in their districts.

“You’re collecting a piece of information you can’t change, and you’re doing it to solve a problem that may have easier nontechnical solutions,” said Chris Calabrese, vice president for policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). Solutions, he said, could include requiring the bus driver walk to the back of the bus to check for students.

Because of the sensitive nature of iris scanning, Mr. Calabrese said, vetting a company’s security measures is paramount for schools pursuing the practice. That begins with understanding what data is being collected and how it is used. For iris scans, the first level of collection is whether only the iris scan will be collected, or if other personal information, like name and contact information, will also be linked to the scan.

Full article here.