Privacy concerns over fingerprint scan at Chinese varsities

Students at about 100 universities across China are required to have their fingerprints scanned for a two-month long-distance running programme, raising concerns over their privacy.

Last Updated: Oct 29, 2010, 14:14 PM IST

Beijing: To run or not to run? That is the
question faced by thousands of students at about 100
universities across China, as they will be required to have
their fingerprints scanned for a two-month long-distance
running programme, raising concerns over their privacy.

The move has sparked an outcry among the students, who
fear their privacy will be violated by the requirement.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said the demand for
fingerprint scans aims to improve discipline and dissuade
students from cheating, state run `China Daily` reported.

The measure has been in use in Shenzhen University for
three semesters and this year the ministry wants to expand it
nationwide, the MOE said.

"The physical condition of Chinese college students has
declined dramatically and the long-distance running programme
will benefit their health," said Chen Xiaorong, one of the
organizers of the programme and head of the physical education
department at Shenzhen University.

"But the feedback we have received has indicated that the
students are unwilling to take part in the running programme
if it is not strictly managed," she said.

Citing an example, she said a student at Shenzhen
University helped his classmates cheat on the school`s
long-distance running programme before the fingerprint scanner
was initially introduced on a trial basis.

Since the new system was adopted by the city to manage
attendance, 89,000 students completed the long-distance
running programme over the last winter semester without
teachers` supervision, she said.

All university freshmen and sophomores have to
participate in the long-distance running programme over the
winter, the MOE said in a statement issued in June.

Male students are required to run a distance of 2,000
metres per session, while female students need to cover 1,500
metres. Those who attend more than 16 sessions can receive
class credit.

For the programme, students have been asked to register
on the website yw2000.com, operated by Shenzhen Sunscin
Technique Co, which provides fingerprint scanners to
universities for free.

The company, however, does not have an Internet Content
Provider license, which is required to operate a website on
the mainland.

Some students have questioned the choice of a website as
the method of registration, expressing the concern that their
personal information might be misused.

However, Chen stressed that the Ministry of Education has
signed a contract with the company to safeguard the students`
privacy and prevent their personal information from being
leaked.

She admitted that the company could economically benefit
from the increased web traffic.

PTI