Florida Senate Bans Biometrics In Public Schools

March 28, 2014
Senators fear children's identifying information could be stolen out of computers and used for identity theft, although fingerprint scanners have been used for years with no issues and information is not stored on the Internet.

March 26--TALLAHASSEE -- Florida senators passed a statewide ban on collecting biometric data from public school children, but gave Pinellas County schools until the end of the 2014-15 school year to use another student identification system.

With no debate, the Senate passed the bill (SB 188) by a 38-1 vote, with Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens the lone "no" vote.

The measure travels to the House, where a strongly supported companion measure is heading to the floor.

Representatives for Gov. Rick Scott have said in committees that he supports the bill, suggesting that Pinellas schools may have to mothball their palm scanners and related technology, which cost about $155,000.

State Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, has pushed the ban this year. She believes that children's identifying information could be stolen out of computers and used for identity theft.

But industry experts have said they're unaware of any identity theft cases in recent years in which someone has used a wrongly taken fingerprint, iris scan or other identifier.

The schools are on spring break this week and administrators could not be reached. Art Dunham, the director of food services, did not respond to a message left on his mobile phone.

Dunham previously told the Tribune that biometric scanners have been used for four years without incident. Parents can opt out of having their kids use the scanners but few do.

With only 30 minutes to feed more than 1,000 students in some schools, the technology ensures they have time to sit and eat, Dunham said. Each scan takes 1-2 seconds.

The system is not connected to the Internet, he said, but uses a closed system with secure servers locked in a room in the district's administration building.

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