West Cheshire College, UK, have stopped tracking their students with active RFID tags since using the technology from 2010.
On the 26th of February a complaint was made to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) concerning the college’s refusal to answer a Freedom of Information request about consent and civil liberties regarding using active RFID tags to trace students movements around West Cheshire College campuses at Handbridge and Ellesmere Port.
On 27th February the college states they do not use the RFID: “As the trial has now concluded, all RFID tags are inactive and have been recalled.”
On 18th February West Cheshire College, in an FOIR reply, appears still to be using a student RFID location system and on 27th February, 9 days later, the college states it has ceased using the ultra wideband RFID location system.
A RFID system so excellent that the college sent an employee to Florida last April, 2012, to lecture the RFID industry on the Return On Investment (ROI) the RFID provided for the college (see 2pm on April 5th). However there are unanswered Freedom of Information requests regarding how the RFID was funded, if indeed the college has ever paid for the system. This then presents the question as to why would West Cheshire College send an employee to Florida, USA, to lecture the RFID industry on a new ultra wideband RFID standard on a return on investment that the college never invested in?
From West Cheshrie College presenting a Return On Investment (ROI) presentation in April 2012 in Florida, to scrapping it in February 2013 it would seem the college has also scrapped all information whatsoever on the groundbreaking industry standard RFID they have had in the college since 2010.
On the 27th February 2013, a day after a complaint to the ICO, West Cheshire College offered a late reply to the Freedom of Information request asked on 10th December 2012 regarding consent and civil liberties. After the college did a “search for information” it can uncover “no information” at all on how consent was gained from students, whether the college did a Privacy Impact Assessment to access the RFID or how the college could use a RFID for registration when “The technology is not used for tracking of individual students“. Maybe that is why the RFID was scrapped – how can a system that does not individually track children work for registration? …and it took them 2 years to come to that conclusion? (Really?) There are anomalies in all this that seem not to add up.
One could draw an opinion that West Cheshire College are evading questions on why an unstandardised active RFID location system has been used to track children for over 2 years. There are unanswered questions on how consent was gained and how the college, days after scrapping the technology, seem to have completely expunged all records of the ultra wideband RFID and in fact have no evidence of the RFID real time location system used there.
The Information Commissioner’s Office is now handling the complaint of how West Cheshire College managed their legal obligation to give information under the Freedom of Information Act. This active type RFID technology has the capacity to be used covertly and the potential for lack of transparency by educational establishments using a real time location system is completely plausible.
Different people have differing levels of privacy. If you or your child are wearing or carrying a card or tag that communicates remotely to a system and you have concerns how ‘smart’ or ‘contactless’ technology works – ask questions. We all know data gathering is vast in today’s age. Making sure you are aware of who is accessing your data is prudent, none of us truly know where our information may end up, who views it and how it may be used for or against us.