France – Bluetooth tracking kids in school

(* Nov 2019 – Klassroom squired Newschool in September 2019 https://medium.com/@klassroom/klassroom-annonce-lacquisition-de-newschool-philippine-dolbeau-rejoint-l-équipe-en-tant-que-coo-3c05ff976)

According to this article a school in France are requiring children to wear radio frequency Bluetooth tracking devices.  Well, the school would like the children to wear the Bluetooth devices supplied by the start up company NewSchool – if they don’t wear the device, or if they loose it, the kids have to pay a fine of 10 Euros (£9 or $12).  Not really much choice there then.

The school using the radio frequency tracking device is the Lycée Rocroy Saint-Vincent de Paul, a private Catholic high school in Paris.

According to the BBC ‘French school in row over tracking pupils electronically‘ more than 3200 people have signed a petition against the school RFID tagging their pupils, with one pupil’s plea over twitter.

Not only will the  school be able to track the kids every move, soon parents (and puzzlingly students themselves) will be able to too!
Our NewSchool Teachers app is available for teachers only. Soon, we will release an application for students and parents of students. Patience so 😉”.
There is also a “Good Points” Reward package that comes with the NewSchool app, presumably for students that are compliantly tracked.

Philippine Dolbeau is the 18 year old founder of NewSchool, and happened to be a pupil of  the Lycée Rocroy Saint-Vincent de Paul private school where this RFID tacking system is being enforced September 2018.  This is how her website describes her:

“Philippine is an 18-year-old entrepreneur, founder of New School, and “Most Innovative Woman of 2017”.   She is recognized by much French national media as being the youngest entrepreneur of France. Philippine created her startup at the age of 15, while still studying at the lycée. While asked to create a pretend startup, the young teenager decided to go beyond the limits given and decided to make of NewSchool a real-life business in September 2014.”

One thing Philippine has failed to learn is the complete inappropriateness of
a) tracking each student with a Bluetooth device
b) fine them for not wearing the device
c) consent issues (duh) and
d) health issues increasingly being aired with regards to wireless technology and it exposure, especially at close hand.  (Wonder what her public liability insurance is like?).
She might have been the “Most Innovative Woman of the 2017” but for this???  Mmm…

Bluetooth transmits at 2.4GHz either at a range of 10, 100 or 1000 (1km) meters.  Given that this school wants to track students within the school, gym class, drills and field trips presumably the 10 meter device isn’t going to hack it.  More on Bluetooth data from the NordicSemi blog:

Undoubtedly more to come on this…

Image of the Bluetooth tracking device from https://www.laquadrature.net/fr/new_school

 

The agenda to RFID track your child, giving away free chips

In November 2015 Richmond Sausages, a subsidiary of Kerry Foods, spent £3 million on an ongoing campaign to distribute 200,000 Bluetooth tracking chips, free RFID chips, to be claimed via packs of sausages. The aim of the Sausage and Chip campaign is to make meals times less stressful if a children’s toy, teddy, has gone missing… and this would sell their sausages why?

I have to say as a parent myself a child losing a toy at meal time (whether or not sausages are present) has never been an issue and I can never recall any conversation with another parent where losing a toy has been an issue, especially at meal times.

The company supplying the Bluetooth GPS chip is a company called B-on who lists the Amigo watch, for tracking children, amongst its three products. The watch can set up geo-fencing ‘safe-zones’ incorporating a pedometer to track your child’s activity.

B-on also supplies other tracking devices for adults, health monitoring and fitness tracking. Having said that I cannot find the Amigo Watch for sale anywhere online. Apart from a few articles published last year by Wired and TechCrunch the Amigo Watch has virtually no online presence apart from the B-on website where there is no facility to buy.

Maybe the Amigo watch never got off the ground and the company now has to give away their product in another form because there is no market for it? Perhaps B-on made a few hundred thousand watches that haven’t sold, and to lure the unsuspecting public into using a tracking product… ‘needing’ a tracking product, they have ‘repackaged’ the watches into tracking chips to hang round a child’s loved toy.

It is a nudge, especially for a young child. The message? RFID tag the stuff we love.

You can imagine the conversation “…but why don’t you tag me Mummy? You love me as much as I love Teddy don’t you?”. Clever.

So why would Richmond, a sausage manufacturer, spend millions of pounds giving away free RFID tracking devices essentially aimed at children? Splashing out £3million is a hefty amount of profit margin from sausages sales to recoup, plus 200,000 RFID tracking chips. It just seems odd?

Schools livestreaming images of children to parents ‘smart’ devices


On the 24th of May 2014 an article was published in the UK Daily Telegraph entitled ‘Government allows problem schools to take up free camera surveillance trial’.  The article details how a report had been published revealing the extent of drug problems in UK schools and how a company called Watchbot thought a good solution to this was to put Internet Protocol television cameras (IPTV) in classrooms, corridors and schools playgrounds to livestream images and audio in real time to parents phones and tablets “to keep tabs on schoolchildren’s behaviour.” 

Britain’s schools extensively have CCTV but never before have schools broadcast real time images from classrooms.  Schools using this technology are thought to be the first to do so globally.
The scenario allows parent and carers unprecedented visual and audio access to their children in school, watching every moment of their school life.  Children’s learning, socialising and recreation time all broadcast live to parents ‘smart’ devices, every minute of the school day.   But it is not just their children that are available to watch; it is everyone else’s children too.
To see how this video livestream could be deployed without infringing on a child’s right to privacy, being scrutinised by unknown adults viewing remotely, a correspondencewas sent to the Information Commissioner’s Office(ICO), who oversees the UK Data Protection Act 1998.   The ICO’s responsewas that:
“…any proposal to use technologies which allow potentially vulnerable youngsters to be viewed by a wider audience in what should be a safe and confident learning environment needs very careful consideration.

The use of such [livestreaming IPTV] technologies, if not properly considered and not used with strong safeguards, could potentially be in breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 and at the very least would not be considered good practice

Imagine a scenario where a camera was situated so parents could see the comings and goings of children to the school’s nurse, what if a parent sees a friend’s child take regular visits to the school nurse?  Does that parent then tell the other parent?  – apart from the fact that medical information is classed as ‘sensitive data’ under the Data Protection Act and the school has a responsibility to keep that information confidential for the child.   How would this constant monitoring affect relationships between students, curbed perhaps because of the student’s knowledge of other parents snooping on their children, their friends?  What if little Jonny is ill, off school, and logs in on his parent’s smart device to see what is happening in school?  In the wrong hands this IPTV footage would be dynamite ammunition for a bully.  Recorded images and audio could potentially be put on social media and a child’s life be made a misery because of it.  How could anyone possibly quantify the psychological damage done to a child by this?    

Beaming live video off a school site in real time, to potentially hundreds of people, brings up many areas for consideration, least of all the complete invasion of privacy to the children and staff.   The glaringly obvious question that springs to mind is, who is checking exactly who the persons are watching these images?  Adults cannot step foot into a classroom without the appropriate safety checks.  Access to children in school is had only by accredited adults.  This livestream system would give not just general information about children, when they arrive/leave school and what classes they are in, but potentially sensitive information about a child to unknown third parties in real time.  Where are these safety checks for ‘school livestream’ viewers?
The ICO’s closing statementwas that, “the ICO is not aware of any particular schools using live stream CCTV or similar, but we would of course respond to any concerns that are subsequently brought to our attention.
Bizarrely the names of the schools trialling this technology were kept from the public for ‘privacy’ reasons.  See 3 minutes into this radio interview:
To find out which schools were livestreaming images of children off site, so a complaint could be made to the ICO, a Freedom of Information request was sent to all secondary schools in the local authorities where the four schools were – Liverpool, Waltham Forrest and Herefordshire; a total of 61 schools.  The Freedom of Information request was sent September 2014.
The response rate to the Freedom of Information requests was dismal.  Schools clearly had little grasp of their obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and it was not until March 2015, with assistance from the ICO, when finally all schools in those local authorities responded to the request.  A six month process that should have taken 20 working days under the Act.
Interestingly not one secondary school in any of the local authorities answered affirmative to trialling the livestream IPTV technology.  A 100% denial that any secondary school was using the Watchbot technology.  The BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester radio interview done with Richard Hillgrove from Watchbot, featured a secondary school head teacher and pupils, which certainly lead listeners to believe it was being trialled in secondary schools, as did the Telegraph article and an article by Wired, simply by the nature of the reasoning why IPTV cameras had been installed – drug abuse.
Good news, it seems the secondary schools in these areas are sufficiently drug aware to not need this technology to monitor drug taking and drug deals.  Which means, as responses under FOIA have to be robust as those given in a court of law, that this technology must be in primary schools.
If this is the case, then not only is it alarming that images and audio of primary age children are being livestreamed from classrooms and playgrounds in real time to ‘smart’ devices, but more concerning is that primary school children in these areas have a drug problem serious enough to seemingly warrant vigilant parents policing school life, minute by minute, by having access to these classroom live feeds.
So there are three scenarios here: a) that four secondary schools are lying under the Freedom of Information Act, b) Watchbot livestream IPTV cameras are being used in four primary schools, c) the article in the Telegraph is simply fabricated, perhaps a ploy by Watchbot for some free publicity.
As there are 266 primary schools in the four local authorities cited in the Telegraph article it will be a large undertaking to use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information on this, especially given the poor response by the FOIR on this to secondary schools in those areas.
According to the Telegraph article, in a letter to Watchbot from the Department of Education, regarding livestreaming from schools, they stated:
The department [of Education] appreciates your efforts to improve the safety of our children in schools  …we do not endorse, fund or promote specific resources for use in schools.   We leave these decisions for teachers to make, as we believe they are best placed to recognise the needs and abilities of their pupils.”
In order to further clarify which schools, secondary or primary, are using these livestream IPTV the Department of Education have been sent a freedom of information request, which is due back on the 16th April 2015.
When new technologies emerge in schools, such as biometrics and tagging children with radio frequency identification (RFID) devices, the UK Department of Education takes a step back, allowing industry to sell such technologies to Head Teachers, in this case supposedly for children’s safety to tackle drug use.  Biometrics for buying food was to stem bullying for money, fingerprint registration for library use was to improve reading habits, RFID tagging children was to improve attendance and for improved safety in school.   In reality, it is plain and simply mass surveillance of our children in education to gather data.
Technology cannot stop drug use, improve reading habits or stop bullying. Money spent on educating children, empowering them with knowledge, being able to make the right decision in a tough scenario is what our children would benefit most from.   As the Information Commissioner’s Office states, schools should be a “safe and confident learning environment”.  Mass surveillance of school children, available randomly in real time to the general public without any consideration to privacy, has to be wrong. It softens them to being surveilled, leading the next generation into a world where privacy is non existent.

Eventually the schools using this IPTV will be found and a complaint to the ICO will ensue.


by Pippa King

Texas Bill to ban active RFID in schools

Texas
Good news indeed.  A bill banning the use of active radio frequency identification (RFID) that identifies and locates children in schools has been presented to the Texas LegislatureSenator Kolkhorst introduced SB486 on the 10th of February 2015 that reads:

“A school district may not require a student to use an identification device that uses active radio frequency identification technology or similar technology to identify the student, transmit information regarding the student, or track the location of the student”

Similar bills introduced in 2012 by the then Representative Lois Kolkhorst, HB101 and HB102, were unsuccessful.   More here on HB101 and HB102. Hopefully SB486 will be passed and Texas will be the second State in the USA that bans radio frequency identification used by children in schools to locate and transmit information.

Missouri was the first US State to ban RFID in schools in 2014.   SB523 came into effect October 2014 which “Prohibits school districts from requiring a student to use an identification device that uses radio frequency identification technology to transmit certain information”.

RFID transmitting the location of students is used in Texas.  However in Northside Independent School District (NISD) the RFID introduced in 2012 was a disastrous public relations exercise for the technology.

USA protest against tacking RFID

San Antonio – students protest against tracking RFID

One student in 2012 who attended John Jay High School in San Antonio, Andrea Hernandez , refused to carry the active 433MHz tag, that was going to transmit her whereabouts 24/7.  The school unbudging in its commitment to have the kids wear the active RFID expelled Andrea.

The Hernandez family took NISD to court, with the Judge’s decision unfortunately going against them.  Andrea had to move schools.  In July 2013 the RFID was scrapped.  NISD had introduced the RFID to improve school attendance which it failed miserably in (obviously!).  Quite how NSID expected students wearing a RFID tag around their necks would improve attendance is clearly a testament to the sales pitch of the company supplying the RFID, WADEgarcia.

There were many claims made about the RFID one of which was that only the school could track the RFID tag.  Not entirely correct.  The RFID tags the kids were, and are, wearing in Texas utilise the 433MHz radio frequency.  The same frequency used by RFID tags the US Military use to track their assets around the globe, in fact it is the very same standard ISO18000-7.  So let’s be very careful when making claims about RFID technology.  See paper ‘Military Systems compatible with Student Locator RFID‘.

Hopefully SB486’s progress will highlight what exactly RFID is capable of.  Not that I am suggesting the US Military is tracking children in America but only that the technology does have capabilities and is open to be fallible.

Smart AI running our cities

Increasingly our streets and cities are using artificial in intelligence (AI) to point police to crime hotspots through CCTV networks.   However CCTV, closed circuit television, is not quite what is operating on our streets today.  What we have now is IPTV, an internet protocol television network that can relay images to analytical software that uses algorithms to determine pre-crime areas in real time.

Currently this AI looks at areas that may be targeted for crimes such as burglaries or joyriding, with the predicted hotspot information being sent direct to law enforcement smart phones in the field.  This analytical software is being used in Glasgow, Britain’s first ‘smart city’, where Israeli company NICE Systemsare running the CCTV/IPTV network, analysing data from the 442 fixed HD surveillance cameras and 30 mobile units under a project called Community Safety Glasgow, apparently delivering Glasgow a more efficient traffic management system, identifying crime in the city and tracking individuals.
Whilst Glasgow City Council claim they are not currently utilising NICE System’s facial recognition capabilities, the new HD CCTV system being installed for the Future Cities Demonstrator initiative, funded by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills via its quango the Technology Strategy Board, is still capable of tracking individuals within the city.  A spokesperson from Glasgow City Council stated:
A trial of NICE’s video analytics is planned for later in the year [2015]. This involves Suspect Search which can be used to find missing children or vulnerable adults quickly, such as those with dementia, as well as tackling crime.  Again it does not involve facial recognition or emotional intelligence.”
‘Suspect Search’

Nice Systems in Glasgow
          

As well as missing children and vulnerable adults presumably Suspect Search can also track suspects – the clue is in the name.  No facial recognition.  No surreptitiously taking and covertly using our biometrics, that’s okay then?   So how does this tracking work?  The software still has the same outcome as using facial biometrics – individuals can be identified, traced and tracked.  According to NICE;

Working with information about the entire body, from head to foot (clothes, accessories, skin, hair) enables faster and more accurate matches.
Of course, because CCTV cameras are not at head height and persons of interest do not always have their face aimed at the camera, it could be the back or top of the head or the particular person could be wearing a cap, therefore analysing the whole body makes sense.  Still the same outcome as using our biometrics, agencies being able to track us individually, covertly.
Moving surveillance cameras to a height that facial recognition software can operate seems to be where police agencies are moving towards.  On March 9th Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe called for surveillance cameras to be moved to head height;
We‘ve got a strategy to encourage people to do with their cameras, is to move them down to eye level  …facial recognition software has got better it means we can apply the software to the images of burglaries or robberies whatever, so we can compare those images with the images we take when we arrest people.”
http://player.ooyala.com/iframe.js#pbid=7145aca000af4d348c1914e0eb73673d&ec=lmc3h0czpeLcrvN20SjiNVIpG_Er1uD4
Cameras previously situated out of reach to stop us from vandalising them, now appears not to be an issue.  Clearly the police think we are sufficiently desensitised to them.  Having cameras at head height enables facial recognition software to run behind whatever surveillance system is operating, which is precisely what West Midlands Police intend to run behind Birmingham’s HD CCTV network.
West Midlands Police have a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with multinational corporation Accentureto revolutionise and streamline the way the force handles data, uses mobile and digital technology and interacts with social media and other organisations such as local authorities.  This includes running a facial recognition system called ‘Face in the crowd’ behind what the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) call “the wealth of CCTV footage available” in Birmingham.  Apparently ’Face in the Crowd’ is sold to us as a device purely for finding missing persons, much as ‘Suspect Search’ in Glasgow is primarily for missing children vulnerable adults.  All for our safety of course.
Accenture also deliver facial recognition for police body worn cameras.  Heading up the Accenture Police Services department is Managing Director Tim Godwin, former Deputy Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police Service.  His attitude towards this facial recognition used with police body camera is that:
They [body cameras] are a good thing in my view, it gives you a lot of additional evidence, you have got facial recognition, you can actually link it directly to a case system so it’s really good
How long before West Midlands Police start utilising a wider variety of Accenture’s products such as facial recognition body worn cameras?  Would they tell the public if they did anyway?  Maybe they would follow ACPO’s lead of using a facial recognition system since April 2014, accessing the Police National Databaseusing 18 million of our photographs, a system that they have been developing since October 2012, and failing to inform anyone.
Quite where West Midlands Police are up to with their facial recognition technology is unclear however a Freedom of Information request to the police authority is due back from them by end March 2015. 

Although local government’s CCTV networks are not routinely hooked into private surveillance networks, the advent of IPTV, where surveillance data no longer being recorded on video tapes for storage but being saved in the ‘cloud’, would presumably create a long term desire for government agencies to be able to have access to these private surveillance networks.  

With an ever increasing use of these technological analytical intelligences being used behind what is unchanged existing street furniture, essentially nothing outwardly changes for us.   These systems are becoming more the norm, and why not if it is for the greater good as the police agencies state?
However each day they are used, they ‘learn’ more about how we behave; our mass movements as herds in cities and as individual humans.  How long will it be before the systems begin predicting pre-crime in each one of us individually? 
Where does the analytics stop?  Will the machine scan parliament’s reams of legislation to analyse the particular crime that has been committed by an individual?  Then perhaps the machine can scan court case histories, looking at the best conviction outcomes, advising police agencies specifically what crime has been committed and the optimum penalty.  Could the machine ultimately analyse whether we are guilty or innocent?   
These systems have the potential to create dizzying amounts of data sets about us. Being able to control our personal digital footprint is now a thing of the past as we move into an age of mass ubiquitous data harvesting.


by Pippa King

Final update on West Cheshire College RFID tagging students

Public Acc CommAfter nearly a year of being quiet about West Cheshire College tagging their students with RFID, a final update to round the story off as there have been some happenings behind the scenes.  The monetary spend of £1,050,242 on ultra wideband RFID that ‘failed’ in it’s job to monitor the students, despite it being used by the military, is the language that speaks to UK parliament.  The civil liberties lost and invasion of privacy the 14-19 year old, blissfully unaware, students suffered were ignored by the establishment.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) did their job well in ensuring the college met it obligations under the Freedom of Information Act.  It took time for me to get answers to my Freedom of Information requests but I got what information the college had in the end after involving the ICO.  There was a distinct change of attitude with regards to co-operation from the college when there was a change of Principal early in 2013, maybe that is coincidence.

In February 2014, Tom Watson MP asked three written questions in parliament to the Department of Education about West Cheshire College’s use of RFID tagging students.  As expected the Department of Education knew nothing about this.  Hansard references here: Feb 4th, Feb 6th and Feb 10th.

After learning, from Freedom of Information requests, that the college had spent over a million pounds on untested, uncosted, undocumented, unstandardised RFID I contacted the Public Accounts Committee to report the cost.  They passed the enquiry onto the National Audit Office who carried out an investigation into the unusual accounting of this spend.  On the 10th November 2014 I received a letter from Margaret Hodge MP who oversees the Public Accounts committee:

“Inquiries made by the National Audit Office of the Skills Funding Agency suggest that the Agency have no knowledge of student tracking systems in operation at further education colleges.  I understand from your previous communication that you have already received confirmation from the Department of Business Innovation and Skill and the Department of Education that they do not hold specific information on the tracking system in question and they they are not running and programmes to introduce such systems more widely in schools an colleges.

The National Audit Officer have highlighted to me previous weaknesses in the arrangements to access and manage capitol funding bids from further education colleges.  At about the same time that West Cheshire College would have made its bid for new buildings broader concerns began to emerge about the then Learning Skills Council’s (LSC) overall management of the capitol programme.  These concerns were brought to light in critical reports by Sir Andrew Foster and the Education Select Committee.

The LSC was disbanded in 2010 and it’s responsibilities, including management of further education capitol investment programme, were assumed by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA).  A Cabinet Office review of the SFA’s investment programme in 2013 reported that the criteria for distributing grants had been developed in a way which promoted value for money.

In the absence of any further evidence of a wider problem the National Audit Office is not planning to undertake any further inquiries at this time.

So a botched spend on flawed technology, mismanaged by the college and the government?  Or the RFID industry using UK students at West Cheshire College, wearing RFID supplied and pioneered by Zebra Technologies, for the IEEE 802.15 4f standard approved February 2012, which Tim Harrington, the Vice President of Zebra Technologies, sat on the IEEE 802.15.4f working group on?

Whatever it is or is not the sorry episode is done, with students and parents non the wiser it ever happened.  This practice of tagging students with RFID is common in the USA, let us hope the UK does not follow suit.

Missouri bans tracking RFID in schools

Missouri bans tracking RFID in schools.  In the first of its kind legislation, Missouri Senator Ed Emery‘s bill was passed last week.  Ksn.com reports that “The bill will take effect in October after lawmakers overrode Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of the bill this past week, just barely getting the required two-thirds majority in both chambers.

The bill, SB523, simply reads:

1. No school district shall require a student to use an identification device that uses radio frequency identification
technology, or similar technology, to identify the student, transmit information regarding the student, or monitor or track the location of the student.
2. For purposes of this section, “radio frequency identification technology” shall mean a wireless identification system that uses an electromagnetic radio frequency signal to transmit data without physical contact between a card, badge, or tag and another device.

SB523Many schools in the USA track their students using active RFID which is a chip powered by a small battery and emits a regular pulsed radio frequency signal.  Readers then pinpoint the location of chip, thereby identifying the child’s whereabouts.  Wearing such a device is huge invasion of privacy of the children potentially being able to be seen in sensitive areas such as washrooms, school nurse, etc.

The technology is not without controversy.  One student, Andrea Hernandez in San Antonio, refused to wear the chip on religious grounds and was excluded from her high school as a result.  The somewhat extreme action by the school gained international exposure and support from privacy groups.  After a year of running the RFID locator programme the scheme was scrapped.

The excellent ‘Position Paper on the Use of RFID in Schools‘ sets out the concerns with using this technology with children and heartening to see that Missouri have taken this on board and banned tracking RFID in schools.