Technology versus privacy

What do readers think about using biometrics in school and college cafeterias?

By Paul King, Editorial Director

I was reading an article the other day about a bill currently making its way through the Florida legislature that would ban the use of biometrics in school cafeterias in the interest of protecting children’s privacy. The bill in question, SB 188, made it through the state senate’s Criminal Justice Committee. But it was blocked by the Judiciary Committee and hasn’t been rescheduled for a vote.

The use of biometrics—the scanning of fingerprints, palms, eyes and even faces—to identify people is certainly not new technology. Many companies and institutions use it on their employees in place of the old punch-card method of “clocking” in and out of work, and for limiting access to certain areas of a building. Some foodservice operations even use it to verify who is entering areas such as walk-in coolers and freezers, as a way to reduce theft. And the University of Georgia’s foodservice department has employed the technology for more than two decades to identify when students on meal plans are accessing cafeterias.

But as more and more school districts have begun using biometrics as a way to help move students more quickly through cafeteria lines, some parents are starting to question how the data collected from these scans is being used by the district or even whether it’s legal for districts to do so.

A fair number of these districts are in Florida, such as Pinellas County. (See “Art Dunham: Savvy Businessman.”) Parents’ complaints in some of these districts have reached the eyes of legislators such as Sen. Dorothy Hukill, D-Port Orange, the sponsor of SB 188.

The article started me thinking, just how prevalent is biometrics’ use in non-commercial foodservice and what do foodservice directors think about it? I’d like to hear from readers. Do you use biometrics on either employees or customers and, if so, what method do you employ and for what purpose? Also, whether or not you use biometrics, what do you think about it? Is it a legitimate, sensible piece of technology or an invasion of privacy that has no place in our industry?

Send me your thoughts at pking@cspnet.com. I’ll let you know what people have shared in a future issue.