Issues register

EdTech Assessment Toolkit

Vandalism prevention (Sydney, Australia)

Biometric model

A Sydney school has implemented a smart lock on its bathroom stalls to tackle an ongoing vandalism issue. In order to unlock bathroom stalls, students are required to scan their fingerprints. Should the toilets be vandalised, the school can check its log files to identify which students are responsible. The school believes this technology has only upsides, as it does not have any negative impacts on students unless they are responsible for vandalism. As the fingerprint scanner does not actually store fingerprints but instead works with an alphanumeric representation of fingerprints, the school believes there is no reason for concern about the privacy of students (Rachwani, 2022).

However, in the event of a data breach, students’ fingerprints could be accessed by unauthorised individuals. This could potentially expose students to risks such as identity theft, fraud, or their data being linked with other forms of information. Digital Rights Watch Australia has stated that they believe the collection and use of children’s biometric information for the purpose of protecting school property from vandalism is an unreasonable and disproportionate invasion of privacy (Digital Rights Watch, 2022).

Snapshot (July 2023)

System task/function: Vandalism prevention
Model: Biometric
Deployment: Fingerprint scanning technology
Location of application: Sydney, Australia
Rationale for introduction: Prevent vandalism in bathroom facilities
Vendor: TBC (name of product/service?)
Pricing: Unknown
Data and computation: Alphanumeric representation of fingerprints
Level of stakeholder consultation: Two years with school’s community focus group
Inequalities/harms: Privacy risks and security concerns (Digital-Rights-Watch, 2022)
Status: Removed (October 2022)
Authority/regulation: School level
Unintended consequences: A security breach could leak the fingerprints; students could bully others to provide their fingerprints.
Sanction/redress: N/A

References/further reading

Digital-Rights-Watch. (2022). Privacy and data security concerns regarding the use of biometric surveillance technology on children at NSW high school. Retrieved from

Rachwani, M. (2022). Sydney school’s use of fingerprint scanners in toilets an invasion of privacy, expert says. Retrieved from

Swist, T., Suwana, F., Gulson, K., & Flew, T. (2022). As more biometric data is collected in schools, parents need to ask these 10 questions. Retrieved from