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Thumbprints Used To Check Books Out of School Library

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the we-also-need-a-blood-sample dept.

Microsoft 355

krou writes "Junior students at Higher Lane Primary in Whitefield, Greater Manchester, are in a trial of a system that uses their thumbprints to check out and return books from a library. The thumbprints are 'digitally transformed into electronic codes, which can then be recognized by a computer program.' The system was developed by Microsoft, and is being trialled elsewhere in the country. NO2ID condemned the system, saying it was appalling, and that 'It conditions children to hand over sensitive personal information.' The headmaster has defended the scheme, saying, '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. 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. We hold a lot of information about children because we are a school. This is no different.'"

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355 comments

Next up (5, Informative)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418556)

School bans gummi bears [schneier.com]

Re:Next up (3, Interesting)

vxice (1690200) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418852)

You get what you pay for. This just in $5 fake cameras, you know the ones with a single AA battery that runs a little LED so that the criminal thinks the camera isn't a $5 fake hooked up to nothing, fail to catch criminals %100 of the time. From the way that was written it sounds like the author just doesn't like biometrics and chose the lowest quality systems he could find. I go to a college with a biometrics program and know several people working on what is called "liveness detection" or measures in the systems to prevent fake fingers that would easily foil the fakes that this guy made. The first and simplest, while not the most accurate but simplest never is, way would be to include a temperature sensor and reject and print present with non standard human body temperature accounting for fevers and cold fingers during winter. The next method commonly used would be to apply a charge across the finger, there is a specific range of resistance expected from a human body. Other methods include detecting for perspiration, more sensitive scanners that can see the 3d structure of the fingerprint and many others. Like I said you get what you pay for and that needs to be taken into account. That article you linked to mentioned that you could fool the system with $10 worth of household goods, well what use is that if there is no way you are going to steal $10 worth of books. Who really steals books from a high school library. Security is not about being %100 secure but making it harder and more expensive to break the security than either a) its worth or b) than it is to get the other guy.

Re:Next up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32418908)

Too much effort. Just show it a photocopy of a thumb print. (Myth Busters)

Not sensitive (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418582)

Thumbprints shouldn't be treated as sensitive personal information, they are too hard to control.

Re:Not sensitive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32418606)

And loads easier to ascertain the owner than a lost library card.

Re:Not sensitive (2, Funny)

butterflysrage (1066514) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418614)

you mean your kids aren't shaved bald coated in a latex suit? Just think of all that sensitive DNA they are leaving everywhere they go!

Re:Not sensitive (4, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418624)

The risk that someone will cut off a junior schoolchild's thumb in order to check out a library book seems to lie within acceptable bounds.

Re:Not sensitive (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32418670)

You just have no idea how cruel kids can be...

Re:Not sensitive (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418768)

You don't need to cut someone's finger off to get their fingerprint. Fingerprints are used for forensics precisely because you leave them on everything that you touch. With some scanners, you can just put something malleable like a gummy bear on a place where someone has left a fingerprint, after dusting it, and then put that on the scanner. The newer ones require marginally more effort, but only marginally.

Re:Not sensitive (2, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418826)

Do you think there is a high risk of students lifting fingerprints in order to steal books?

Re:Not sensitive (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418886)

Well, I learned how to lift fingerprints, aged 9, from a book in my school library, so the capability is there. To steal books? Probably not. To get another child in trouble for not returning library books? Much more likely.

Re:Not sensitive (1)

hockeyc (1675766) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419128)

So when the librarian is standing there watching you press a gummy bear up to the scanner, he or she is not going to be a little suspicious?

Re:Not sensitive (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418642)

I'm fine with this system as long as:

1. My child isn't required to participate (if the religious right can opt out of sex-ed, my kid can opt out of this) and an alternative is provided.

2. If no alternatives are provided then my child isn't required as part of his assignments to check books out of the school library.

Re:Not sensitive (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418760)

What are your concerns? The system stores a hash of the fingerprint, as long as it is not completely brain dead there will be no way to use the information in the system to construct a fingerprint, and any library they use is likely already keeping a record of the books they check out.

Re:Not sensitive (1, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418896)

"as long as it is not completely brain dead"

Interesting assumption.

"library they use is likely already keeping a record of the books they check out"

True, but now it is a record that is tied to something very difficult to change or erase: a fingerprint. What guarantee is there that the police will not be able to enter the school and demand that certain fingerprints be recorded for their use? Perhaps at the time, the police will have an innocent motive (a risk of someone kidnapping the child), but now they have fingerprints on record for someone who is not a criminal.

Re:Not sensitive (1)

colonelquesadilla (1693356) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419174)

Sorry, but it is explicitly stated that the prints themselves are not stored. Not sure exactly how this works but presumably it measures a few parameters and makes a hash out of that.

Re:Not sensitive (2, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418734)

Except that in this case, it is a thumbprint combined with other identifying information (like a name). They claim the information is not stored, but I am sure that buried in the contract there is a clause allowing law enforcement to arbitrarily request the thumbprints of particular students. Sure, they could always pick through the trash to get the thumbprints, but this system makes it that much easier, further tipping the balance of power away from the citizens.

Of course, there are plenty of other ways that the government manages to get this sort of information, but that does not mean it is OK to add to the problem.

Re:Not sensitive (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32418856)

Thumbprints shouldn't be treated as sensitive personal information, they are too hard to control.

In a civilized society, fingerprinting is what you do to criminals.

They probably shouldn't be treated as Id. either (5, Insightful)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418968)

Personally, I'm less worried about the 'privacy' of my thumbprint, and more worried that, generally, it's too *easy* to get my thumbprint.

While this probably isn't much of a worry with a school library checkout system, I'm worried that with something like a thumbprint, which never changes, eventually it gets too easy for someone to get access to your thumbprint and 'forge' authentication/authorization.

It's the same problem I have with the use of Social Security No.s - you start out life, and your SS # is basically secret - your parents know it, and it's in the SS Admin.'s computers. Right there, though, because it is in government computers, potentially thousands of people have access to it. Now, your parents sign you up for school, and they enter your SS # info into the local school district database. Then you get a savings account at the bank, and they ask for your SS #. You apply for jobs, and they ask for your social security number. You sign up for a credit card, or a checking account, an IRA, or an application for an apartment, and they ask for your Social Security number. You apply to college, and each college wants your SS#.

By the time your 25 or 30, your Social Security number is in dozens of different databases and millions of employees have access to those databases, and your SS # is basically worthless as a 'secret' which identifies you - it's no longer secret.

You could have the same problem with biometric identification (although at first glance, that might seem impossible), because, fundamentally, biometric information such as a fingerprint, retina scan, or DNA sequence, is reproducible data - ultimately, no system can guarantee that the actual finger or eye or DNA was scanned - all that the 'server' can verify is that the correct 'data' corresponding to previously recorded data, was transmitted over the network to the server. So, compromise a terminal (or setup a computer which masquerades as a valid 'terminal'), then send the correct 'data' from that terminal, and the server will assume that the user's thumb or retina was scanned.

I'm really can't offer any advice on a better alternative, but mark my words - if biometric identification becomes widespread, the identity thieves will not have too much difficulty adapting - as the biometric id becomes widespread, it will get harder and harder to keep the identification 'data' secret, and fraudsters will steal that data like any other bit of data, and misuse it.

The *real* security threat is that people will start to get a stronger and stronger belief in the 'infallibility' of such biometric identification, and so people will lose the ability to repudiate false authorizations. Juries and judges, if they have too strong of an assurance on the evidence provided by biometric identification, may produce verdicts/rulings which unjustly penalize innocent people.

Re:They probably shouldn't be treated as Id. eithe (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419156)

Right. They are easy to get hold of, so they should not be relied on for important things.

And it situations like a criminal trial, they should not be given excessive weight, and a defense attorney should have ample opportunity to talk about why they might not matter in a given situation (that sounds awfully similar to what we do...).

Big Deal (3, Informative)

sensationull (889870) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418586)

Big deal schools in the UK and NZ have been using this method for checking out books for ages. You try to get a six year old to remember a pin number or library card. Many also use public barcode lists of users instead due to the cost of fingerprint scanners and in some rare cases privacy concerns.

Re:Big Deal (2, Informative)

DeadPixels (1391907) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418716)

Back when I was in elementary school, all you did was tell the librarian your name and she'd look you up in the system. I don't recall if there was anything to prevent abuse of the system - they might have asked for a birthday or something. Either way, this just seems unnecessary more than it is concerning.

Re:Big Deal (4, Funny)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419062)

Back when I was in elementary school, all you did was pull a card out of the pocket in the front of the book, write your name and room number on it and drop it in a box. There was no "system" because computers were hugely expensive, not to mention being the size of a pickup truck back then. The librarian knew us all by name and if a book wasn't returned on time, she'd come looking for us in class.

Now, get off my lawn--it's time for Matlock.

Re:Big Deal (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418790)

"You try to get a six year old to remember a pin number or library card."

Or, you could have an adult help them. Like, a teacher, or a parent, or the librarian. Why are we suddenly expecting 6 year olds to go to the library without any supervision?

Re:Big Deal (3, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418824)

This story is about the UK, but maybe it's been used in NZ for ages. And does a school library really need automated checkout? The library at the school I attended from ages 7-11 did not have a librarian, the class teacher wrote the book that you borrowed in a book. The school that I went to from 11-18 had a librarian and either she or one of the sixth formers doing library duty would enter your name in the computer that tracked books. This popped up your photograph, for quick verification. No library card needed.

The school that I went to from ages 3-7 didn't have a library. Reading age changes quickly when you're that young and so each class had its own reading books, which children could borrow if they asked the teacher. Again, no need to remember a PIN or library card.

Re:Big Deal (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419030)

In the US, teachers literally don't have enough hours in the day to meet the requirements in many cases. Now you want them to be the librarian, too? Mind you, my school worked like your school, but I wouldn't say I received anything like education there. It was more like indoctrination. There was no personalized learning, everyone was forced into the same box even back then. I was in GATE (gifted education) and for kids my age participation was limited to using the speed-reading machine (in a group) and doing logic puzzles, doing all the same ones I might add, i.e. there was no personalized learning even there except for sixth-graders... which was the only year I didn't attend at that school, of course. The next place I went had nothing.

Re:Big Deal (5, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419022)

You try to get a six year old to remember a pin number or library card.

Why the heck does a six year old need a library card or a PIN in the first place?
 
The problem here is assuming that everything must be computerized... for no good reason other than everything must be computerized. When I was six, the teacher pulling a card from the pocket in the book, having me print my name, stamping the card and the book with with the due date, and then filing the card worked just fine.
 
I'm no luddite or technophobe by any stretch, but sometimes electronic/automated systems are solutions in search of a problem.

Re:Big Deal (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419094)

Gone to is the nostalgia of seeing who checked out the book in front of you. I remember in elementary school having kids finding books that their older siblings or even parents teachers checked out. In their original 5th grade hand writing no less.

Re:Big Deal (2, Informative)

teh31337one (1590023) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419026)

Exactly what I was thinking. They started using thumbprints for the library in my school back in 2001. (It was a UK school)

Re:Big Deal (1)

molecular (311632) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419028)

Big deal schools in the UK and NZ have been using this method for checking out books for ages.

And from that fact you're deducting that it's no harm?
Well, using that logic: To kill a jew is ok, because the nazis have killed millions.

You try to get a six year old to remember a pin number or library card.

remember a library card? you certainly mean "hold on to" one. I should expect that from someone as soon as I trust her with returning a book.
Not remember a pin? I had to friggin memorize poetry at that age.
Also: it prepares them for the real world, where you have to remember (or store securely) numerous PINs and PWs.

I have to agree with NO2ID: introducing this at that age just conditions them to put their finger on everything that blinks and says: "put finger".

Also: the excuse that it's just a mathematical representation of the fingerprint being stored/compared (what else!) is bogus, because you can always compute that ID when you have a scan and you can also compare that ID to other ones in the same representation (you can also maybe even cross-compute between different presentations), which is exactly where privacy is hurt, because then data from multiple bases can be combined to paint a bigger picture of THE PERSON the print belongs to.

Re:Big Deal (1)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419150)

Big deal schools in the UK and NZ have been using this method for checking out books for ages.

Given the UK's general attitude toward its citizens' privacy, saying UK schools have been doing this for ages doesn't exactly support your position.

Hidden agenda (3, Insightful)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418592)

I'm fairly certain there's a hidden agenda here. They say it is a voluntary system, but what they mean is that privacy conscious students won't have access to the library. Libraries hold books. Books hold information. Information leads to knowledge. Knowledge is power.

They're taking the power away from the privacy conscious people. It's a conspiracy, I tells ya!

And no, I'm not paranoid. It's not paranoia if they really ARE out to get you.

*looks over his shoulder*

Re:Hidden agenda (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418712)

Thumbprints are personally identifiable. That does not make them private.

Or are you wearing latex gloves right now?

Or is it that you think the library should be prevented from keeping a record of the students that they have loaned books out to?

Re:Hidden agenda (3, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418806)

Or is it that you think the library should be prevented from keeping a record of the students that they have loaned books out to?

When I was a kid we were given personal identification. It was just 2 words, easy to remember, with the second word being shared among my family and the first word being unique to my generation in the family. We would share it with the librarians so they could keep track of who borrowed each book.

I remember it working quite well. Whatever happened to that system?

Re:Hidden agenda (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418874)

The librarians got lazy.

I really don't see what difference you see between a name and a thumbprint, they are both essentially public information that is roughly tied to a certain person. I suppose there is some raving-loony scenario where a nefarious criminal manages to pull a thumbprint out of the database and plant it at a crime scene with other corroborating evidence during a time period where the owner of the thumbprint does not have a decent alibi, but I don't find myself breaking into a sweat over it.

Re:Hidden agenda (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418944)

"I really don't see what difference you see between a name and a thumbprint,"

I can go to a court and have my name changed. Where do I go to have my fingerprints changed?

Re:Hidden agenda (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419068)

You don't actually need to go to court.

Do you think there should be a law against people collecting aliases?

You seem to think I am awfully blase about protecting fingerprints. You're right. Because we leave them every-fucking-where. What I am not blase about is treating fingerprints as if they carry a lot of weight -- and this system does not treat fingerprints as if they are perfect, it uses them in place of a library card.

Re:Hidden agenda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32419072)

a hospital

Re:Hidden agenda (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419088)

Mexican plastic surgeons? Wood shop? I hear people who work in food service moving hot items around quite frequently end up temporarily removing theirs. I mean, they are tiny little groves, it shouldn't really take much at all to abrade them off.
(I know, I too look at my baby soft 'office worker' hands and cringe too....)

Re:Hidden agenda (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419086)

I remember it working quite well. Whatever happened to that system?

Too many books being signed out by Justin Case, Ben Dover, Rita Booke, etc.

Re:Hidden agenda (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418854)

I think the problem is this:

They say that no image of the finger print is kept, but instead a "mathematical template".

What if at some point down the line sell/give all the mathematical templates and the method with which the templates were created to "The Man". Then it becomes possible for "The Man" to get thumbprints from say, a crime scene, or other place and convert it to the same mathematical template and, erm, finger you as a suspect?

Again, you'd have to be ultra paranoid, or have a major stick up your butt in relation to privacy to be worried of this. But people seem to be operating under the view that if you budge an inch "The Man" will take a mile.

Re:Hidden agenda (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418922)

I think people with that many concerns about government would better spend their time agitating to make sure it does not become powerful, rather than trying to control their fingerprints (I sure don't find gloves to be particularly comfortable).

Re:Hidden agenda (1)

revlayle (964221) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418974)

I bet these "Mathematical Templates" end up being a hash. If so, then it is a one way thing, if you have a the hash, you can't get the fingerprint. Hell, breaking down the fingerprint into a a series of bytes (like, an image file perhaps) and doing some sort of SHA256 (or and hash-algorithm with a lot of bits for the output) would probably do the trick - mathematically speaking, no one person would get the same hash (as a 256 bit number is pretty damn big - in the case of a 256 bit hash) and no one could extract fingerprints from the hash.

Re:Hidden agenda (1)

revlayle (964221) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418984)

Of course, the image per scan would not be exact, so the resulting data that generates a hash is not exact, like above, but the end result is the same, a hash.... forgot about the scanning bit not producing an exact image replica of the fingerprint each time

Re:Hidden agenda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32419058)

Thumbprints are personally identifiable. That does not make them private.

Then you should have no problem posting a scan of your fingerprints. It's not as if most print readers (sold as offering indisputable proof of identity) can be fooled by dampened photocopies... Oh wait!

Or are you wearing latex gloves right now?

No, I'm not in the lab.

Or is it that you think the library should be prevented from keeping a record of the students that they have loaned books out to?

They never had to take fingerprints to do that when I was young and it's unlikely to be the most efficient system now. Given the facts, who wouldn't be asking questions about the real agenda behind such schemes?

Re:Hidden agenda (0, Flamebait)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418746)

Hidden agenda?

If they want your fucking finger print they can get it from any of the several thousand other impressions you make during the day. From the desk you were sitting at, the papers you turn in, the locker door you open, the toilet you flush.

You're finger print is hardly 'sensitive private information' considering you leave it ALL OVER THE PLACE.

If this scares you, you're retarded, ignorant, and stupid. Yes, paranoid is in there somewhere too, but the others rate far higher on the list of your issues than it.

Its just a different form of library card that doesn't require you to carry ANOTHER card with you since everyone one freaks out and is afraid that one card would make it easy to figure out what you do, we can't just use one card. Too bad you can just do a couple google searches and compile the list anyway.

If someone is going to 'watch you', they'll do it regardless of if you use a card, a signature, or a thumb print to check out your 'how to get laid on slashdot' rags from the local library.

Re:Hidden agenda (2)

pmontra (738736) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418828)

Hidden agenda?

If they want your fucking finger print they can get it from any of the several thousand other impressions you make during the day. From the desk you were sitting at, the papers you turn in, the locker door you open, the toilet you flush.

Think about the cost of collecting fingerprints on every desk and associate them with a name compared to the convenience of people voluntarily providing you both.

Re:Hidden agenda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32418752)

Don't libraries already keep information on the books you take out... IE: A library card? I'm failing to see the difference here.

Re:Hidden agenda (4, Insightful)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418762)

Your post almost looks like it could be sarcasm*, but you never can tell on this site, so I want to point out that it's not like libraries were havens for privacy before. You could never just walk into a library and anonymously check out a book: you had to have a library card, and the record of everything you've ever checked out was associated with that card, and therefore, with you. The only difference here is that your thumbprint is being substituted for the card.

Move along, folks, nothing to see here but Slashdot sensationalism.

* And if it is, then this post is aimed at the people that modded you Insightful.

Re:Hidden agenda (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419124)

You could never just walk into a library and anonymously check out a book: you had to have a library card, and the record of everything you've ever checked out was associated with that card, and therefore, with you.

Well, no there hasn't always been eternal records associated with you - I didn't see my first computerized checkout system until I was well into my teens, and even then I don't think they stored everything forever. Storage costs money, something libraries are perennially short of.

Re:Hidden agenda (3, Funny)

Main Gauche (881147) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418766)

"I'm fairly certain there's a hidden agenda here. They say it is a voluntary system, but what they mean is that privacy conscious students won't have access to the library. Libraries hold books. Books hold information. Information leads to knowledge. Knowledge is power."

I'm fairly certain that Yoda has a schizophrenic brother.

It's worth mentioning ... (4, Informative)

krou (1027572) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418620)

... that it's more widespread [bbc.co.uk] than the article Snip:

Many schools are fingerprinting pupils without parents' permission, teachers have warned.

It is thought around 100 schools in the UK now use fingerprint identification systems for registration, borrowing library books and cashless catering.

But there is no legal requirement for schools to seek parents' consent for using biometric technologies.

Eh? (1)

asto21 (1797450) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418646)

Why is it that anytime there is any attempt to use biometrics in a large-scale environment, slashdotters start wailing? (without even waiting to know the specifics)

Re:Eh? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418862)

Well one issue is that it is fairly difficult to change biometrics -- I can change my legal name, my home address, my country of residence, etc., but it would be much harder to change my fingerprints. It is also troubling to think that these systems may become widespread and unavoidable, which further complicates matters (I want to change my identity, but now there are fingerprint scanners everywhere and thus a convenient way to track me down).

All for it (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418650)

So the laptops we got for our courses a couple years back had fingerprint readers on them, for you to set up fingerprint login. Toshiba product, I think a Satellite or something similar. Anyways, concerned with privacy, I took a gander on how the information is generated. They pick a series of points, and record tiny bits of information. Which way this line is going, how thick that line is, if it curves, all that little stuff. Next, they take those and encode them into some digital method or another, and at Toshiba, they encrypt it, just in case you wanted another layer of protection.

Now, because its only 6 or 7 or maybe a dozen datapoints, at various parts across your finger, it's impossible to reconstruct your finger print. It'd be like reconstructing a house with a single plank of wood.

So, anytime you use your finger - the data gets analyzed into the datapoints, encrypted, and tested against the database. The Database comes back with your records, and voila!

I wouldn't mind them storing that information, since they can't really use it for much.

Re:All for it (1)

Frozen-Solid (569348) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418906)

The problem has nothing to do with storing that information, or the ability to deconstruct a fingerprint from their database information. You don't have to deconstruct the fingerprint to copy it, you are given dozens of fingerprints every single day, and you give out dozens of fingerprints every single day. Think about every single thing you touch that gets passed onto someone else over the course of a day. Your finger prints are on each and every one of them. I don't know about you, but I'd be hard pressed to give out my SSN once a month, let alone dozens of times a day. Sure, it isn't practical to steal a fingerprint in the wild without going out of your way to do it right and get a nice clean print, but it's not a risk I would like to take. If someone steals my password, or my credit card information, or even my name and social security number, all of this can be changed with varying degrees of hassle. Sure it might take a few days of filling out forms and making phone calls, but it's doable. You can't change your fingerprint. At best you have 10 chances and then you're screwed.

Re:All for it (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419134)

You don't have to deconstruct the fingerprint to copy it, you are given dozens of fingerprints every single day, and you give out dozens of fingerprints every single day.

The overzealous crime TV Shows would have you believe that simple because you touched something, enough of your fingerprint is on there to identify the person, or that it can somehow transcend other physical contact, or that they can stick to -any- surface.

Fact of the matter is, not all surfaces hold fingerprints very well. And criminal investigators usually need to use all five prints in order to narrow the suspects down to a reasonable few.

So I'm not sure where the problem lies. Acquiring someone's finger print would be very difficult. Not only do you have to get them to hand you an object with their finger fully pressed on it, but you also can't let anything touch that area to damage or remove the print. So is someone going to maliciously pull off this master scheme to check out books on my library account? Oh noes!

This kind of biometric system is perfect for these low-brow situations. Libraries, Locker rooms, personal computing.

Riiights... (4, Informative)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418674)

"All pupils' details are erased when they leave school."

They promise...this time is true! For real!

Re:Riiights... (4, Interesting)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419006)

Of course, if they really meant it, then they would allow the assignment of absolutely outrageous damages to the school when this is not done. Very simple, you make the school system, superintendent, principal and vice principal jointly and separately responsible for ensuring that the data is erased and removed from any/all backups within 21 days of the student no longer being enrolled.

If the school is found to be in non-compliance, they shall be jointly and separately responsible to pay damages in the amount of $250,000 to the student or legal guardian, for every 7 day period in excess of 21 days that the information is found to still exist.

make sure that this applies not only to school controlled systems, but contracted systems in the control of 3rd parties on behalf of the school.

You put that into place and I GUARANTEE that this will not end up being an issue.

-Steve

Re:Riiights... (3, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419036)

Notice they said "details". Not "all information", just the details. As to what is a detail and what is not, the devil is in that.

Wait till swine flu appears again (3, Interesting)

DustCollector (903185) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418684)

I briefly worked at a company which used a hand scanner in lieu of a badge. It was unwisely put between your desk and the restroom. It's no secret not everyone washes their hands after relieving themselves, so I avoided eating lunch at my desk unless I had a bottle of hand sanitizer with me.

Now imagine 4 year olds, touching everything and sucking their thumb, and then checking out a book.

Technologically, scanners work well enough. Implementation, however, is done by the foolish.
 

Re:Wait till swine flu appears again (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418798)

Now imagine 4 year olds, touching everything and sucking their thumb, and then checking out a book.

Sounds like a good possibility to train their immune system and have it in working shape when they encounter the first batch of really nasty stuff. Or avoid having it run havoc at the first gush of birch pollen.

Re:Wait till swine flu appears again (4, Insightful)

dummondwhu (225225) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419010)

Well then, we'd better hurry up and get rid of door knobs, vending machines, elevator buttons, and the myriad of other things that a lot of people touch on a daily basis. I'm sure that children aren't already touching each others toys, school supplies, desks, etc. already, though, so good catch on this one. In fact, we'd better hurry up and get them all into bubbles before the swine flu gets them!!

Or maybe the librarian could just hit the reader with a little sanitizing wipe every so often. Germ phobia is hardly a reason not to do this. Not when a thumb print reader is just one more thing among a slew of others that a lot of children might touch in a day.

people not technology (1)

vxice (1690200) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418686)

People misuse technology not the other way around. As long as there are security measures in place and the data is not being used for anything they say it is not then there really should be no concern. You are just identifying these students and like they said schools keep a lot of personally identifying information on hand that could be abused. They also mentioned that the system is voluntary and as for the template thing, that is standard procedure when collecting fingerprints and almost all biometrics. Templates that can be matched against take a lot less storage space and are easier to match against.

Is this that uncommon? (1)

fatnickc (1259582) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418726)

Thousands of schools already use fingerprints for registration, as well as in plenty of their libraries. I guess most of them are 11+ or 13+, but is it really so different just because this is in primary schools?

"No image of a thumbprint is ever stored" (2, Insightful)

kieran (20691) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418736)

As far as I'm concerned, that's enough to move this project from "appalling" to "kinda awesome". I'm not sure what (the otherwise excellent) NO2ID are on about here.

Re:"No image of a thumbprint is ever stored" (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418924)

What is a mathematical template of your fingerprint if not just another representation of your fingerprint image?

It's like saying "we have the names of everyone right here, but it's okay, we wrote them down backwards so that only we know who they are"

It's a simple step for anyone to take an image from a crime scene, convert it into the same mathematical template and make a match with one of these school kids. Now that may, in the greater scheme of things be a good thing, it catches a possible criminal. But it still is somewhat infringing on people's privacy. Atleast, that's how privacy nuts will view it.

Re:"No image of a thumbprint is ever stored" (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419074)

It's like saying "we have the names of everyone right here, but it's okay, we wrote them down backwards so that only we know who they are"

No, it's not. It's like saying "We noted down the first, fifth and last letter of your nick, and a couple of others in the middle, so we know it starts with R, has an N in the middle and ends in M, and there's a V and a couple of Es in there".

Re:"No image of a thumbprint is ever stored" (2, Interesting)

Nakor BlueRider (1504491) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418964)

Not that I'm against this use of thumbprinting, but I wonder how effective the mathematical template is at maintaining privacy. Theoretically even if they don't have the actual thumbprint on file, could they not still check a thumbprint they find somewhere against their student database by running it through the same template and seeing if it matches the result of any of the students' prints? They may not have the students' thumbprints themselves to compare against, but they still effectively have a hash from it. This would prevent them from producing the student's thumbprint from their hash and using it elsewhere, but not from finding a thumbprint somewhere in the school and comparing it to their database if they desired.

Re:"No image of a thumbprint is ever stored" (1)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418990)

As far as I'm concerned, that's enough to move this project from "appalling" to "kinda awesome". I'm not sure what (the otherwise excellent) NO2ID are on about here.

If it works like we've been looking at (I work in library systems) it just takes the thumbprint, turns it into a hash and stores that, then every time you want to take out a book it just matches the stored hashes against the one of the person currently trying to take out a book. No personal data is stored & the thumb print can't be recreated as it doesn't use the whole print, only certain points. It's actually an (unusual) example of Biometrics done right! I donate to NO2ID, I'm going to email them and explain this to them.

Re:"No image of a thumbprint is ever stored" (2)

vxice (1690200) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419070)

actually images of fingerprints or any biometric for that matter are ever actually kept. Templates are almost always used, they are simpler to match and use less storage. Think of it as a one way hash, the image is collected and then the template is created. In the case of fingerprints minutia points are noted, details such as the delta point, which is on almost all fingerprints a delta or triangle shaped feature made up of many ridges usually on whirl type fingerprints. Other points of note are where there are divergences of the ridges or convergences called bifurcation points. Fingerprints used to be classified by their 1st degree features or features which could easily be seen by the naked eye, weather it was a left whirl, right whirl, or one of several other categories. Bifurcation points are 2nd degree features which can still be seen by the naked eye but are smaller and harder to see. Then there is a third level which is the location of the pores which requires magnification. Human recognition of fingerprints also involves the 2nd degree features. Computer matching is usually done entirely on the 2nd degree level because it is surprisingly hard to program a computer to match 1st degree features and rather pointless since it does not limit the search space much a feature which is very important when humans are sorting or matching anything. A good match would have all the minutia points listed on the template, however users don't always place their finger the 'exact' same way every time so some rotation and acceptance of missing points is to be expected. The rotation is easy to deal with, missing points as long as those points are not seen at all it can be acceptable as long as all the present points match and not too many are missing. If the scan is not good enough the user can be asked to scan again.

One Word: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32418738)

Fascism.

P.S.: I am dismayed, but not surprised, to learn that a company as UNEVIL as Google used MicroCRAP
software.

Yours In Smolensk,
Kilgore Trout.

Fingerprint != Private (3, Interesting)

Mabbo (1337229) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418756)

Your fingerprint, like most biometrics data, is not what I would call "Private information". You leave it lying around all of the place, all the time. Your face isn't private, in fact it's probably the most public thing about you. Your DNA is very much the same: your drop it everywhere. The only thing that makes it pseudo-private is that it's generally a bit hard to obtain- but not really.

If I were a kid at that school, I'd start signing out a lot of books under a teacher's fingerprint. I'm sure a lot of them have seen the mythbusters episode where they do that sort of thing. It's not difficult.

Re:Fingerprint != Private (3, Funny)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418970)

Privacy nut: "They are keeping records of all your private information, all your biometric data. We need to stop this!"

Me: "Your voice is private biometric data. So shut up."

Re:Fingerprint != Private (3, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419024)

Do you commonly tag your biometric data with your legal identity? Sure, my fingerprints are left on the counter when I buy something at the corner store, but I do not sign those fingerprints with my name. When you start using fingerprints for library records, you essentially have a convenient database for tying those fingerprints to the people who own them, without the effort that was once necessary to do so (i.e. following someone around, picking through their trash, and so forth).

The problem is it doesn't work well (3, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418776)

I know a couple of schools that use the system, and unfortunately a large number of thumbs are "unscannable". This means they are singled out to carry cards or something else, which (like almost anything else that makes kids stand out from the crowd) embarrass them.

LIBRARY CARD (3, Interesting)

yaDad (925894) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418786)

what the hell is wrong with a library CARD. hasnt this been working for years. if you cant keep up with a library card you might have problems later on in life. further than that why not just use the NAME of the student who has the book. IDIOTS!

Re:LIBRARY CARD (1, Flamebait)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418966)

what the hell is wrong with a HORSE. hasnt this been working for years. if you cant keep up with a horse drawn carriage you might have problems later on in life. further than that why not just use the FEET of the person who has to walk. IDIOTS!

No opt-out (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32418794)

The problem with bad ideas like this is that there is no way for those kids (or their parents) who think such Orwellian shenanigans set a bad precedent to opt out. Some idiot administrator has made the final call, and now, if you want to use the library, you have to conform. This is what schools teach. In addition to mediocre math, science, art, music, and physical education; schools primarily exist to teach the value of conformity. You must agree to abide by arbitrary and often quite stupid administrative decisions, and furthermore, you must learn to accept that this is the way of the world. No-one ever distinguished themselves by being like everyone else. Is that a lesson you'll learn in public school? Not a chance.

Re:No opt-out (1)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419104)

The problem with bad ideas like this is that there is no way for those kids (or their parents) who think such Orwellian shenanigans set a bad precedent to opt out.

Wrong RTFA:

She confirmed it would be extended to all pupils, adding that parents would be given the choice to opt in or out.

Also, as I mentioned elsewhere, these things usually store a hash of parts of a thumbprint, not images of full thumbprints; I'll bet this is the same (the article even says no image is stored). It's no where near as Orwellian as you make out.

The new UK government (1)

rpjs (126615) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418796)

Has already announced that schools will no longer be allowed to fingerprint pupils for any purpose without their parents' consent.

All of this is missing one fundamental flaw.. (1)

NeuralAbyss (12335) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418822)

The flaw that most articles on biometric identification, be they fingerprints, retinal scans or other, is that you only have a limited number of immutable keys to choose from. While it may not be an issue in a school setting, if anyone is able to reconstruct the fingerprint or retina picture from the stored data, or at least a fake fingerprint/picture that is functionally equivalent to the real one, it's game over. You only have two eyeballs, and ten fingerprints.

I'd rather a system that allows me to change the key once in a while.

Pervs (4, Funny)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418834)

It is a biometric recognition system and no image of a fingerprint is ever stored[...] The thumbprint creates a mathematical template.

How can we be sure there isn't some perv getting off to our children's mathematical templates?

More than it seems.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32418842)

The issue at hand is more than a mere privacy concern. It is a subtle yet existing political move, that tries to mould a generation into thinking that giving up privacy over convenience is a "good thing".

Anonymity (1)

zmaragdus (1686342) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418868)

One thing that would prevent the dissemination of fingerprints to authorities would be to hash the output of the mathematical fingerprint transform. Like passwords on a Linux box, a hash will (almost always) allow an instance of a fingerprint to be matched to a person without giving the exact fingerprint itself. In addition, don't store any other data about the person. To resolve late fines/missing books, require all graduating students to go to the library one last time and get a sort of "This person returned all their stuff" slip signed by a librarian (which, of course, would require said person to return all their books and pay their fines).

(Am I missing anything?)

Re:Anonymity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32419042)

As I understand it, the 'mathematical fingerprint transform' is supposedly the hash you are asking for.

My company produces similar... (2, Informative)

SeraphEX (656488) | more than 3 years ago | (#32418888)

I work for a software company that produces something similar for school cafeteria use. The points of reference on the print are so minimal that we've had to work very hard just to get a decent read. The chances of someone using the code outputted by our algorithm are nil. It is completely unusable data except by our program. The bottom line is that that unless the program is retaining an image of a child's fingerprint, there is no privacy concern here. Anyone who says otherwise is wallowing in their own FUD.

At this point (1)

Rallias Ubernerd (1760460) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419014)

I'd quit using the library. I have an iPad (though it was a waste of money) so i can rip books off the internet and use it to read books. They aren't getting my thumbprint. I don't care if they yell at me. I am not giving them my fingerprint. If they try, I WILL bring suit to them. It is against my fifth amendments rights (5 is the one preventing self incrimination, right?). Total BS. And it is comming out of microsoft? Oh great. Microsoft might get my thumbprint. That would be a lawsuit in the comming. Don't deny it. It is something I want to see.

There is no Privacy (1, Interesting)

Iffie (1410897) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419066)

It is sickening how technologists assume the best in people while taking precautions for the worst all the time. We are approching a time where everything anyone has ever learned or been exposed to is known. Grooming and vetting, unexcidental experiences etc. can all be arranged if needed..We may be past the point of no return, and may only become witness to the consolidation of basicly autonomous techonolgy determining our lives..

Cafeteria Using This (1)

GezusK (449864) | more than 3 years ago | (#32419154)

The school system I work for has been using a fingerprint system in one of its cafeterias for the past couple of years. It avoids the problems with kids remembering their PINs, or using someone else's.

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