A key mantra of Responsible AI is ‘just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to’. So when some schools in Ayrshire, Scotland, start using Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) on school children in order for them to pay for their lunch, you’ve got to think there must be less intrusive, less dangerous and more private solutions to try first.

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) put it more authoritatively: “Data protection law provides additional protections for children, and organisations need to carefully consider the necessity and proportionality of collecting biometric data before they do so. Organisations should consider using a different approach if the same goal can be achieved in a less intrusive manner”.

The stated reasons for introducing FRT into schools are that it is more Covid-safe and that it reduces the transaction time, both of which might be true, but are they good enough reasons to put children’s safety at risk? And what sort of example does it set for the kids giving away all of their personal and biometric data for free?

The good news is that, just a few days ago, the North Ayrshire Council has said that it has ‘temporarily paused’ the rollout after the ICO’s enquiries – let’s hope that it is permanently halted. But let’s just reflect on how they got so far before anyone put up their hand and said ‘hang on a minute..’

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