Facial recognition may soon play a role in your child’s lunch. The Financial Times reports that nine schools in the UK’s North Ayrshire will start taking payments for canteen (aka cafeteria) lunches by scanning students’ faces. The technology should help minimize touch during the pandemic, but is mainly meant to speed up transaction times. That could be important when you may have roughly 25 minutes to serve an entire school of hungry kids.
Both the schools and system installer CRB Cunningham argued the systems would address privacy and security concerns. CRB Cunningham noted its hardware wasn’t using live facial recognition (actively scanning crowds), and was checking against encrypted faceprint templates. Schools were already using fingerprint readers, too, so this was more of a shift in biometric technology than a brand new layer of security. There were also concerns about fraud using conventional PINs — facial recognition is theoretically safer. North Ayrshire’s council added that 97 percent of children or parents had offered consent.
That won’t satisfy some critics, though. Big Brother Watch and England’s Biometrics Commissioner both maintained that facial recognition was arbitrary. There was a concern that school rollouts might normalize face scanning and numb students to privacy concerns. If you grow up with this technology, you might not object when it crops up at airports or music festivals.
You might not see this spread to the US and other countries given mounting opposition. However, it’s safe to say many will be watching the UK school rollout to gauge both the viability of facial recognition and its real-world pitfalls.