| ORLANDO, Fla.
ORLANDO, Fla. Feb 4 Florida lawmakers on
Tuesday will begin tackling questions of privacy that arise when
technology catches up with science fiction.
Florida is considering legislation to sharply regulate the
use of fingerprint, palm print, iris scans and other biometric
identification systems once found only in futuristic thrillers
such as "Mission: Impossible" and "Minority Report."
The issue is being taken up after parents were outraged in
2013 to find students' eyes were being scanned as a condition of
boarding school buses in central Florida's Polk County School
Stanley Convergent Security Solutions, a part of
Connecticut-based Stanley Black & Decker, captured the
iris images of 750 students in a pilot project before it was
stopped, according to the local Lakeland Ledger newspaper.
Neither parents nor the school superintendent were informed
of the project before its launch, the newspaper reported.
The company's website calls iris scans second only to DNA in
providing certain identification.
The Florida Senate's education committee will take up a bill
on Tuesday that would require school districts choosing to use
biometrics to establish strict policies on the public
disclosure, use and maintenance of the stored data, and require
parents to choose to participate in the program before their
children's data is taken.
Florida's Pinellas County School District in 2011 was the
site of another biometric pilot project, which used palm scans
to check students into the school lunch lines.
Art Dunham, director of food services for Pinellas County,
said palm scans make lunch lines move faster to help make sure
students get time to eat their food.
The district leads the nation in the use of palm scanners,
which are employed in 50 districts in 10 states, with more pilot
projects under way, according to Kent Schrock, spokesman for the
Fujitsu Frontech, the Japanese manufacturer.
The palm scanners look at the pattern of veins under the
skin which Shrock said are unique like fingerprints. He said
some school districts prefer palm scans to other biometric
devices, because they are not part of law enforcement databases.
Biometric data is covered under the Federal Educational
Rights and Privacy Act, which provides parents certain rights
over their childrens' school records, but has not received
attention so far from states, said Khaliah Barnes, director of
the student privacy project at the Electronic Privacy
Information Center, a public interest research group based in
Recent changes in the rules have allowed more access to
student information by third parties, Barnes said, a trend that
her group is fighting as the first step in losing control of
Biometric information typically is held by third-party
contractors, Barnes said, suggesting schools should use
"It's very hard to explain why in a K-12 context when that
information is so sensitive ... that schools need biometric
information," she said.