.. because someone else may be watching, too.
Pippa King is rightly outraged by the bad bargain Bury schools appear to be getting for taxpayer’s money with their their “cashless” fingerprint-based school meals systems. However, I do not think that is the most disturbing element of the story.
There is nothing wrong in principle with using a biometric instead of a separate token to charge an account. And cash-handling is expensive, so you need to minimise it. When I was a child, the school took dinner-money once a week and issued paper tickets: one ticket, one meal. What you ate for your ticket was up to you, though choice was limited. Poor children entitled to free school meals were handed the tickets free, and what money changed hands from whom was invisible to all other children. Each stage involved discrete self-checking transactions in truck/tuck, with no need for continuing accounting for individuals.
Having created individual accounts, the system might still be a simple acounting tool, if those accounts were private. But much more than that is happening here.
Pupils even register points for making healthy choices and are rewarded for healthy eating.
And this being information on ‘risk’ to children – the risk of eating chips, in this case – it will be shared with other authorities, common law confidentiality is expressly excluded [Children Act 2004, s12]. But the information need not be collected; it is because it can be.
The concept of limited government power under law is almost dead: any system in the hands of a British public authority, whatever its ostensible purpose, now acquires a function in surveillance and behaviour control.