Swedish court to rule on school lunch fingerprinting

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.


Schools in Sweden discriminate against parents with Arabic names: study

Parents with Arabic-sounding names get a less friendly response and less help when choosing schools in Sweden, according to a new study from the University of Uppsala.

Schools in Sweden discriminate against parents with Arabic names: study

In one of the largest discrimination experiments ever carried out in the country, 3,430 primary schools were contacted via email by a false parent who wanted to know more about the school. The parent left information about their name and profession.

In the email, the false parent stated that they were interested in placing their child at the school, and questions were asked about the school’s profile, queue length, and how the application process worked. The parent was either low-educated (nursing assistant) or highly educated (dentist). Some parents gave Swedish names and others gave “Arabic-sounding” names.

The report’s author, Jonas Larsson Taghizadeh said that the study had demonstrated “relatively large and statistically significant negative effects” for the fictional Arabic parents. 

“Our results show that responses to emails signed with Arabic names from school principals are less friendly, are less likely to indicate that there are open slots, and are less likely to contain positive information about the school,” he told The Local. 

READ ALSO: Men with foreign names face job discrimination in Sweden: study

The email responses received by the fictional Arabic parents were rated five percent less friendly than those received by the fictional Swedish parents, schools were 3.2 percentage points less likely to tell Arabic parents that there were open slots at the school, and were 3.9 percentage points less likely to include positive information about the municipality or the school. 

There was no statistically significant difference in the response rate and number of questions answered by schools to Swedish or Arabic-sounding parents. 

Taghizadeh said that there was more discrimination against those with a low social-economic status job than against those with an Arabic name, with the worst affected group being those who combined the two. 

“For socioeconomic discrimination, the results are similar, however, here the discrimination effects are somewhat larger,” he told The Local. 

Having a high economic status profession tended to cancel out the negative effects of having an Arabic name. 

“The discrimination effects are substantially important, as they could potentially indirectly influence parents’ school choice decision,” Taghizadeh said.

Investigating socioeconomic discrimination is also important in itself, as discrimination is seldom studied and as explicit discrimination legislation that bans class-based discrimination is rare in Western countries including Sweden, in contrast to laws against ethnic discrimination.”