Facial recognition cameras installed in UK school canteens

Software trialled in Scottish schools to speed up lunchtime transactions.

Furvah Shah
Monday 18 October 2021 09:25
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<p>School canteens in North Ayrshire, Scotland are to trial facial recognition schemes from Monday. (Ben Birchall/PA)</p>

School canteens in North Ayrshire, Scotland are to trial facial recognition schemes from Monday. (Ben Birchall/PA)

Schools in Scotland are trialling facial recognition to allow pupils to pay for their lunches from Monday.

The software is to be trialled across nine schools in North Ayrhsire, and hopes to speed up lunchtime sales by scanning the faces of pupils when at tills.

Many schools already use biometric software, such as fingerprint recognition, to take payments but facial recognition is billed as being quicker and more Covid-secure.

David Swanston, the manging director of CBR Cunninghams, who installed the software, said it was “the fastest way of recognising someone at the till.”

“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, he told the Financial Times.

Mr Swanston said the software cut the average transaction time five seconds per pupil.

But the new system has been criticised by privacy campaigners who say it normalises facial recognition software where there is little need for and was often operated without clear consent from the user.

Silkie Carlo, of the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “It’s normalising biometric identity checks for something that is mundane. You don’t need to resort to airport style [technology] for children getting their lunch.”

North Ayrshire Council said 97 per cent of children or their parents had consented to the new system, but some parentswere unsure whether children were given enough information to make their decision.

Facial recognition has previously been used by schools to monitor attendance and security. But Fraser Sampson, the Biometrics Commissioner for England and Wales, said schools should be use “a less intrusive way” if possible.

Biometric identifying technology has has caused an outcry elsewhere in the world after being introduced in schools. Authorities in New York state banned facial recognition software in schools pending an assessment of privacy inplications, while one municipality in Sweden has been fined for trialling such a scheme.

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