Cardiff - Since 2012, over 800,000 children have had their biometric data taken by the government in the United Kingdom via the school system. One 13-year-old girl is refusing to comply with the demands.
In 31 percent of cases, the programs obtaining fingerprints or other biometric data from minors across the UK have done so without parental consent, according to Big Brother Watch. The civil liberties watchdog filed Freedom of Information Requests with over 3,000 schools. Less than half of those schools responded as required by law.The watchdog’s report states:
As we are now one term into the 2013-14 academic year, and expect the number of schools using the technology to have increased over the summer, and the secondary school population now above 3.2 million, if the number of secondary schools using biometric technology increased from 25% to 30%, more than one million children would be fingerprinted
A 13-year-old student at a school in Wales refused to submit to the data collection. Melody, whose last name is being withheld due to her age, doubted the school’s good intentions when it was declared that fingerprints were going to be collected from students in order to shorten lines in the cafeteria. A simple act of defiance was not enough for Melody, who discussed her idea for a one-person protest with her mother, Kirstie, over dinner. Her mother signed a form stating that she did not give consent for her daughter to be fingerprinted.
When meal time arrived, Melody entered the cafeteria wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, which has become the most recognized symbol of the Anonymous collective. She stated that she was not going to comply and did not have parental consent. A cafeteria employee then reportedly tried to place her finger on the scanner anyway. Melody withdrew her hand and restated her refusal. Melody ate her meal without further interruption and wore the Guy Fawkes mask the entire time she was in the cafeteria.Her story and several photos of her protest spread over social media to Anonymous-affiliated pages, where Melody’s action has been greeted with united approval from the collective. Several variations of memes have been created featuring Melody’s story and likeness.Melody and her mother, Kirstie, told their story to Digital Journal.
One of the many memes created by Anonymous activists honoring Melody's actions.
So let’s start with some basic information. How old are you? How are your grades? Have you ever been in legal trouble?
I'm 13 years old. My grades are very good in the opinions of my tutors, I take an interest in English, Art, Physical and Social education, I also love religious studies. I achieve top levels, mostly in English and ICT. I have not got a criminal record or committed any crimes.
So what made you decide to not comply with the school’s demand to surrender your fingerprints?
They are taking children's privacy away, collecting their data. Apparently the school will not keep your fingerprint after you have left school, this I doubt very much. Treating us like criminals is not acceptable, but people my age see past this; all they think is that it’s 'awesome' or 'easy', but this is just what the school/government wants you to think. This new theory of cutting down school dinner lines has failed, there are actually even more people waiting to buy their food. I refuse to let the school take my fingerprint and collect my data.
Were other students aware of your plans?
Yes, I had told a few of my close friends what I was going to do. In all fairness, I had a lot of support from my friends; they helped calm my nerves and supported me.
Did other students refuse to give their fingerprints?
Many didn't want their fingerprints taken, but on the day when the fingerprinting was to take place, there was only me and a friend. And she has now had her fingerprints taken, this is the case with many kids, they don't expect their parents to agree with it, but they’re wrong. I'm currently one of very few who are not going to have their fingerprints taken, but I'm happy to stand up for what I believe in.
In the photos, I saw you were wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. Did you wear that at school?
Yes, I did wear the mask inside of school. I put it on at the beginning of lunch and only took it off at the end of lunchtime. I had so many looks and stares, but I wanted to get my point across.
What do you think about Anonymous?
I often have long discussions about stuff going on in the world with my mum. I think Anonymous is really good; they care about what's going on in the world and they stand up for the people who are often unable to themselves.
From what I’ve heard, the school attempted to physically force you to submit to the fingerprinting. What happened exactly?
The dinner lady got my finger and tried to move it onto the scanner even while I was wearing my mask, I had already explained I'm not doing it and didn't have my mum's consent [to be fingerprinted]. I just pulled my hand away and refused again.
Do you think you’ll be punished for your decision not to comply?
I don't think I will get punished for my actions, but even if I did what can they do? Give me detention? Shout at me? They can even confiscate my mask, but they can't confiscate the idea. I'm allowed to make my own decisions and have my own opinions.
Do you think it was worth it if you are punished?
It will be worth it, I'm glad I gained the courage to do this.
Where do you think you get your rebellious streak?
I get it from my mother for sure.
How do your classmates look at government surveillance? What is the general attitude towards the government compiling all of this data on its citizens?
Most of my friends are aware that the government is making the wrong choices, but they don't care; money and looking good is all they care about, that's why people are being brain-washed.
So what do you think will happen next?
In all honesty, I don't know. But I hope my actions have encouraged my generation to stand up for what they believe in, even if it means standing alone.
If there was one message you could give to people your age all over the world, what would it be?
Like I said: stand up for what you believe in, even if it means standing alone. We shouldn't be scared of giving our opinion or not following the rules.
Is there anything else you want to tell the readers?
Wake up and see what you have missed. Take a good look around you.
For the readers that aren’t familiar with what’s going on in Wales, why is the school attempting to collect fingerprints from students?
They say they are collecting children's fingerprints so they may obtain a school dinner; have heard many excuses such as it will help lessen the queues.
Your daughter decided to stage a protest. Was it her idea or yours?
We were talking about the issue when I signed the form to say we did not consent to her being fingerprinted, Melody is very passionate and spirited and said she wanted to do something about it then came up with the idea to stage her own protest during dinner time.
You sent the school a letter stating that you didn’t consent, what was their reaction?
No reaction as of yet , though from what Melody tells me their general attitude is to down play the entire thing like it's no big deal and anyone who thinks otherwise is being dramatic or paranoid.
How do you feel about your daughter’s protest?
Really proud of her; I know it must have taken a lot of courage to stand out and up for what you believe in especially in a high school environment.
Did they eventually obtain her prints?
No but a dinner lady did physically try to scan her finger during Melody's protest, but Melody refused.
How far are you willing to take this fight?
Think that's a question for Melody, but she will always have my love and support.
Of all the children in Melody's class only a few refused to be fingerprinted; the majority signed. I personally find this alarming. These are children not cattle, not convicted criminals. Innocent children whose prints are now in the system. Anonymous unites people from every religion and country, never have I seen anything bring people together the way this does, people from all over suddenly put aside the feuds created by our governments, and are friends. There becomes a sense of being human and caring for one another that you simply do not get on such a wide scale; they are out there feeding the homeless, or fighting for justice for the people who have had their voices taken away forever. You can either be part of the solution or remain part of the problem.