by Michael Goldberg

Biometrics: Thumbs Down for Lunch

Aug 01, 20031 min
IT Strategy

The old “I lost my lunch card” excuse won’t work for students in Akron, Ohio, this fall. The Akron school board voted in May to install biometric scanners so middle school and high school students at 18 locations will soon have their fingerprints checked along with their IDs in order to be served lunch in the cafeteria.

School officials said the benefits of the $700,000 system outweighed parents’ concerns about the privacy of their kids’ fingerprints, The Akron Beacon Journal reported. The fingerprint scanners will automate an old system of checking cards and taking meal tickets and cash. (About 58 percent of Akron’s children qualify for government subsidized meals.) Funds earmarked for nutritional programs will pay for the project.

Using the fingerprint scanners isn’t mandatory. Students can still pay cash for meals. While school officials pledged to maintain the privacy of students’ fingerprint algorithms, the Akron school system’s website notes the lunch-line system is flexible. “This technology can also be used for other purposes,” it states. “For example, it could be used to improve security, attendance reports and transportation programs.”