Bill would let schools scan thumbprints

Until a couple of years ago, Iowa schoolchildren could use a fingerprint to pay for their hot lunch.

Thumbprint scanners were just becoming popular in Iowa for lunch lines, library checkout and bus boarding.

State lawmakers outlawed the devices for school use in 2005 amid concerns about legal issues, privacy and information hacking.

Today, there’s a push to again allow fingerprint-scanning equipment in schools.

“This technology is really perfectly safe,” said Jeff Berger of the state Department of Education, which proposed Senate Study Bill 3010. “The encryption process is not hackable and the actual fingerprint isn’t stored, it is converted into a logarithm that is stored.”

The encrypted information can’t be reconverted back into an actual fingerprint, he said.

That’s true, said Ali Pabrai, the chief executive officer of, a West Des Moines-based biometrics consulting company.

“There’s been some misconceptions in the industry: What if that fingerprint is stolen from the system?” Pabrai said Friday. “What’s stored is not the actual fingerprint but certain data points.”

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