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Florida biometrics bill passes House

The much-publicized biometrics bill in the state of Florida – SB 188 proposed by Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange – has passed through he House without any additional amendments. The bill awaits Gov. Rick Scott’s signature before becoming law.

The prevailing argument from the bill’s proponents hinges on the suspected delicate nature of a child’s biometric data.

“Biometric information is information that we can’t replace, so we want to make sure that we’re protecting our kids’ information,” says Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Valrico, who spoke on behalf of the bill in the House. “If we’re not collecting that sort of information at the school district level, then we don’t run the risk of there being data breaches.”

Whether this sentiment is the result of a misunderstanding of biometrics as a technology is yet to be seen. With encryption technology, and the capturing of templates – not images of a fingerprint itself – the proper safeguards exist to make biometric authentication systems an effective and efficient tool.

Unfortunately, the transgressions of a few implementations have seemingly blemished biometrics as a technology.

In fact, Hukill and Raburn forged the bill following parent complaints about use of palm and iris scanners for student identity verification. In Polk County, in particular, school officials had obtained student biometric data without prior parental consent.

Senator Hukill has expressed concern that the personal data of students could be sold or used for commercial purposes.

The bill essentially forbids Florida schools from releasing any information on political affiliation, voting history, religious affiliation or other personal data they may be collected. However, the bill has forbidden the use of biometric systems altogether, giving Florida schools a deadline of the end of the 2014-15 school year to phase out all biometric initiatives en route to the development of a state-wide identification system not related to Social Security numbers.

There are a handful of Florida schools that use biometrics to expedite payments in the cafeteria. Once signed into law these schools will have to come up with new systems.

See Senator Hukill and Representative Raburn’s bill here.

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