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Swedish court to rule on school lunch fingerprinting

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08:50 CEST+02:00
Hungry students at a school in Västerbotten in northern Sweden must give a fingerprint in order to eat in the school's cafeteria, a practice which bothers data privacy officials seeking to ban the measure.

At the Lilja school in Vännäs, students must give a fingerprint accompanied by a four-digit code in order to receive a plate and enter the school's cafeteria.

The system helps the school prevent unauthorized people from eating in the canteen, and also helps officials plan food purchases and the monthly budget.

Despite concerns from privacy advocates, the routine doesn't seem to bother some students.

“At my old school we were forced to use a card, but it was complicated and you often forgot it. But you've always got your finger with you,” said student Peter Leinu to the Västerbottens-Kuriren newspaper.

A similar practice is in place in the town of Uddevalla in western Sweden, which is the target of a lawsuit by Sweden's Data Inspection Board (Datainspektionen) that the agency hopes will prohibit Swedish schools from requiring students to give their fingerprints.

Datainspektionen contends that the practice is an invasion of privacy which violates Swedish law.

“Out of respect for privacy they ought to use other alternatives which are better suited for the task. There is a risk that the reading of the fingerprints has a numbing effect on the view of how we want to protect our privacy,” said Datainspektionen lawyer Suzanne Carlsson Isberg to the newspaper.

The case is now being considered by Sweden's Supreme Administrative Court (Regeringsrätten), which is expected to give its ruling in a few months.

If the court agrees with Datainspektionen, then the practice of lunchtime fingerprinting will likely be banned in all schools.

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