Facial recognition cameras being used to charge kids for school dinners

18 October 2021, 14:05

Children will be using facial recognition in the school canteen
Children will be using facial recognition in the school canteen. Picture: Getty Images

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Facial recognition cameras are now being used to charge kids for school dinners.

Children will now be able to pay for their lunch using their faces in a new trial in Scotland.

Nine schools in North Ayrhsire are testing out the new software from today, which will allow pupils to speed up lunchtime sales by scanning faces at the tills.

Many schools already use fingerprint systems to take payments, but facial recognition has been billed as quicker and more Covid safe.

Schools in Scotland will use facial recognition
Schools in Scotland will use facial recognition. Picture: Getty Images

A flyer distributed to parents by the schools reads: “With Facial Recognition, pupils simply select their meal, look at the camera and go, making for a faster lunch service whilst removing any contact at the point of sale.”

David Swanston, managing director of CRB Cunninghams, the firm that installed the systems, told the Financial Times: “It’s the fastest way of recognising someone at the till — it’s faster than card, it’s faster than fingerprint.

"In a secondary school you have around about a 25-minute period to serve potentially 1,000 pupils.

"So we need fast throughput at the point of sale."

Swanston added that pilots of the system started all the way back in 2020, with 65 more schools signing up.

Children will pay for their lunch using facial recognition
Children will pay for their lunch using facial recognition. Picture: Getty Images

After concerns over children’s privacy were raised, the FT reports a FAQ sheet sent to parents explained that children’s biometric data is stored in an encrypted form and deleted when a child leaves the school.

Parents had to opt-in for their children to use the technology, with North Ayrshire council claiming that 97 percent consented to be enrolled.

Alternatively, kids at the schools can use PIN to verify payments.

A council spokesman said: “Pupils often forget their PINs and unfortunately some have also been the victim of PIN fraud, so they are supportive of the planned developments and appreciate the benefits to them."

But not everyone is happy with the new software, as Silkie Carlo, of the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said it ‘normalises biometric identity checks for something that is mundane’.

He added: “You don’t need to resort to airport style [technology] for children getting their lunch.”

Facial recognition has previously been used by schools across the world to check attendance and security.

Authorities in New York state temporarily banned the software last December pending an assessment of how it affects privacy.