North Ayrshire schools rapped for facial recognition meal payments

Occurred: October 2021

The use of facial recognition for take payments for school lunches by nine schools in Ayrshire, Scotland, attacted controversy as intrusive and disproportionate.

CBD Cunninghams, the company that developed the system, claimed it speeded up queues and protected students better against COVID-19 than the card payments and fingerprint scanners the schools used previously.

Privacy advocates responded by saying the new system was not needed, operated without explicit consent, and amounted to the de facto normalisation of facial recognition.

The North Ayshire Council (NAC) programme was suspended after the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) responded to the controversy by encouraging schools to take a 'less intrusive' approach where possible. 

February 2023. The ICO informed (pdf) NAC that it 'is likely to have infringed data protection law'.

Operator: North Ayrshire Council (NAC)
Developer: Vesta Software Group/CRB Cunninghams
Country: UK
Sector: Education
Purpose: Verify meal payments
Technology: Facial recognition
Issue: Appropriateness/need; Privacy
Transparency: Privacy

Legal, regulatory 👩🏼‍⚖️

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: October 2021
Last updated: February 2023