UK schools will use facial recognition to speed up lunch payments

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Facial recognition may soon play a role in your child’s lunch. The Financial Times reports that nine schools in North Ayrshire in the UK will start taking payments for canteen lunches (aka cafeteria) by scanning students’ faces. The technology is expected to help minimize touchdown during the pandemic, but is primarily aimed at speeding up transaction times. This can be important when you have about 25 minutes to serve a whole school of hungry children.

Schools and CRB system installer Cunningham argued that the systems would address privacy and security concerns. CRB Cunningham noted that its hardware did not use live facial recognition (actively scanning crowds), and checking the encrypted facial print models. Schools were already using fingerprint readers as well, so this was more of a change in biometric technology than a whole new layer of security. There were also concerns about fraud using conventional PIN codes – facial recognition is theoretically safer. North Ayrshire Council added that 97% of children or parents had given consent.

That won’t satisfy some critics, however. Big Brother Watch and the UK Biometrics Commissioner have both argued facial recognition is arbitrary. There were concerns that school deployments would normalize facial scanning and numb students with privacy concerns. If you grow up with this technology, you might not object to it when it appears in airports or music festivals.

You may not see this spread in the United States and other countries given growing opposition. However, it’s safe to say that many will be watching the UK school’s rollout to assess both the viability of facial recognition and its pitfalls in the real world.


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