Privacy concerns over fingerprint scan at Chinese varsities

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.

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