Chapter 2 of Part 1 of The Protection of Freedom Act 2012 was commenced on 1 September this year, to little publicity. It contains quite radical provisions regarding use of children’s biometric information.
(…One for the no doubt thousands of younger readers of this blog…)
Hey kids – want to annoy your teachers and your parents while at the same time asserting your rights to autonomous decisions about your privacy? Then put down your tamagotchis, or whatever it is you play with these days, and have a look at Chapter 2 of Part 1 of The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (POFA). Bear in mind (as I know you will, as you guzzle your ginger beer) that, by virtue of The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (Commencement No. 9) Order 2013, sections 26, 27 and 28 of POFA are now in effect.
And note that, if your school processes your biometric information (for instance, if you have to provide your fingerprints in order to register, or to access libraries (to read the latest Enid Blyton, no doubt) or get school meals) then (after September 1 this year) the school has to have informed your parents that it is going to do this (or continue to do this). If your parents object, then the school has to stop (and almost certainly give you an alternative way of registering/accessing the library/getting school meals etc). The school
must ensure that a child’s biometric information is not processed unless—
(a)at least one parent of the child consents to the information being processed, and
(b)no parent of the child has withdrawn his or her consent, or otherwise objected, to the information being processed….
The relevant authority must ensure that reasonable alternative means are available by which the child may do, or be subject to, anything which the child would have been able to do, or be subject to, had the child’s biometric information been processed.
But also note (here’s the totally rad bit) that, even if your parents are OK with it, you have the right to object, and if you do, that trumps what your parents, and your school, think. Cool eh?
if, at any time, the child—
(a)refuses to participate in, or continue to participate in, anything that involves the processing of the child’s biometric information, or
(b)otherwise objects to the processing of that information,
the relevant authority must ensure that the information is not processed, irrespective of any consent given by a parent of the child
Now, kids, you will have your own views, and some of you may approve of administrative systems which rely on the gathering, use and retention of personal information. You may think that the potential time- and costs-saving benefits are the most important factors at play. But some of you might well object, on perfectly reasonable grounds. You might be worried about what might happen if, for instance, this information fell into the wrong hands, or was simply kept too long, and was misused to your detriment. You might even object in principle to this sort of private information being used in this sort of way, when there are less intrusive methods available.
And you might want to consider that, if sufficient of your classmates object, under what is an admirable and rather radical statutory scheme which gives priority to the wishes of children, then the whole purpose of having this sort of system (convenience and cost benefits for the school) might fall away.