With so much confusion and little understanding around GDPR, we were always expecting some interesting headlines.

This week, The BBC reported how a local authority in Sweden incurred a large fine, after trialling facial recognition on students to keep track of attendance.

The Swedish Data Protection Authority (DPA) fined Skelleftea Municipality  200,000 Swedish Krona (£16,800) for flouting a privacy law.

The trial took place in autumn 2018 and had been so successful, the school considered extending it. The DPA noted that, if the trial had been carried out for longer, the fine would have been significantly higher.

The reasons behind the fine…

The GDPR, which came into force last year, classes facial images and other biometric information as being special category personal data (we used to call it sensitive data), with added restrictions on its use.

Although the Swedish local authority did receive parental consent for such actions, the local authority still needed to show it was necessary to use biometric data rather than an alternative.

The local authority had broken the third principle of data protection by using personal data beyond that which was necessary to manage the task of tracking and monitoring attendance.

As a result, the DPA found that Skelleftea’s local authority had unlawfully processed sensitive biometric data, as well as failing to complete an adequate impact assessment, which would have included consulting the regulator and gaining prior approval before starting the trial.

From the school’s point of view, they may have seen this as a great management initiative, a safe and secure way of tracking attendance, thus reducing the time teachers spend monitoring this, but unfortunately for them, they had not done their homework on GDPR.

Read the full story here