Scottish Schools’ Use of Facial Recognition Violated GDPR

Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning , Geo Focus: The United Kingdom , Geo-Specific

North Ayrshire Schools ‘Immediatley Ceased’ Use of Facial Recognition Akshaya Asokan (asokan_akshaya) • February 2, 2023     Facial recognition no longer needed to eat lunch in North Ayrshire secondary schools (Image: Shutterstock)

A Scottish school district ran afoul of British privacy law governing use of facial recognition, leading the school system to cease its use and delete pupils’ stored biometric data.

See Also: State of Brand Protection Report

The U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office in a Tuesday letter to the North Ayrshire Council said facial recognition in schools isn’t necessarily incompatible with the U.K. General Data Protection Regulation. Where the council fell short was in obtaining parents’ and pupils’ consent for the system, which local authorities presented as inevitable.

The U.K. GDPR – which is the same as the European Union’s GDPR and which the British government incorporate into national law before exiting the union – requires public authorities to obtain consent for the use of facial recognition, the U.K. office wrote.

“To fulfill this, there needs to be a genuine choice for individuals.”

The school system, consisting of nine secondary schools and about 3,000 students, did seek written consent from pupils and children when rolling out in 2021 a payment system for school lunches based on facial recognition. But the consent forms didn’t present facial recognition as an option, but rather as an inevitable development –

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