Arizona passes law prohibiting colletion of children's biometric info

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano signed State Sen. Karen Johnson's bill last week prohibiting schools from collecting fingerprints and other biometric information from students without parental consent. Johnson argues that biometric readers in schools jeopardize student privacy, open the threat of identity theft and pose a potential risk to the student's safety.

"It's ridiculous to require children to provide a fingerprint every day in order to eat lunch or check out a library book. Gathering fingerprints serves only to create an attractive pool of information for identity thieves. The risks far outweigh the supposed benefits," Johnson, who chairs the Senate Education K-12 committee, said.

Senate Bill 1216 prohibits school districts and charter schools from collecting biometric information from pupils without parental consent. Public schools nationally employ fingerprint readers to identify students for participation in food service programs and for automated payment and accounting of federal school lunch programs.

"Fingerprints are forever. If a thief steals your fingerprints, your identity is compromised for life. We are seeing an unprecedented new crime of child identity theft that destroys a child's credit before he's even old enough to own a credit card. Parents have a right to protect their children's fingerprints and other biometric information from being collected and placed in a database where it's available for identity thieves," said Johnson.

"Parents need to know if their children are being fingerprinted. I hope passage of this bill will bring the issue to their attention," said Shirley Wallace, a concerned mother whose children were fingerprinted in school to "move more quickly through the lunch line." Wallace came to Sen. Johnson with her concerns and also campaigned locally for parental notification.

Biometrics is defined in the bill as fingerprints, hand geometry, voice recognition, facial recognition, iris scans and retinal scans.