Over the summer break some schools in the US have treated themselves to RFID location systems, one school district seems to have excelled itself in the level of intrusion of it’s students while other schools it seems are only tagging staff with RFID using the school’s existing wifi.
Here in the UK we had one college, West Cheshire College, that looked at using active RFID over it’s existing wifi to track students, staff and assets but found that using an ultra wideband RFID, tagging 5,500 students, saved them $400,000 – $600,000 – that’s a lot of money. However wifi based RFID is being used in the US to track staff, not students yet, at very aptly named schools called Skyview and Grandview. A third school to use the active RFID using wifi is Patrick Henry School in Virginia. Patrick Henry was a brilliant orator and a major figure of the American Revolution – best known for his quote “Give me liberty or give me death“.
Liberty – the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s behaviour or political views.
Is liberty compromised by RFID tagging and tracking humans, in this case children, with authority knowing your every move, behaviors and peer group association? In the case of Belleville Public School District in New Jersey it seems liberty certainly may be compromised here. As reported in the RFID Journal the school district is “implementing an active radio frequency identification [RFID] solution to locate students and faculty members within its schools, as well as students on its 21 buses… cameras with built-in analytic software, and a new phone system—as well as the posting of armed officers and a new director of security”. Is is that dangerous being at school? That sort of security is only afforded to inmates in prison but the technology in prisons is in place to stop people from getting out whereas at school it is there to stop people from getting in (with a massive added bonus of vast data harvesting).
Is it worth sacrificing privacy and liberty for this perceived improvement of safety as the above examples in the US cite? And at what point does society put it’s foot down and say enough, we need our privacy. It is doubtful the next generation will do that, being normalised to this high level of surveillance from school.
Quite how RFID tagging MPs will miraculously make them attend the South African Parliament is baffling. I suppose it will log them in and out of buildings and rooms but so then can a swipe card or pin. Apparently “Parliament has proposed a combination of two technologies – radio frequency identification (RFID) and biometrics (fingerprint) – to monitor the attendance of Members of Parliament at sittings of the houses of parliament and committee meetings.”
Not that I would like to see any human tagged, or using biometrics to prove their whereabouts in relation to the RFID chip, but find that one comment interesting from the Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance who is against the proposal:
“DA chief whip, “Watty” Watson said the DA caucus rejected the idea, saying that its MPs are not sheep or cattle. “We are senior citizens who have been elected to Parliament by the people of SA and for us to be treated like sheep or cattle being counted is unacceptable,” he said.”
Perhaps refusal to wear the chip would result in expulsion from the South African Parliament much like Andrea Hernandez was expelled from John Jay High School in San Antonio for refusing to wear a RFID tag? But then supposing the proposal goes ahead and South African MPs lead by example carrying RFID tags to monitor whereabouts, does this then set the standard for the rest of the population?
Strange, opposed as I am to RFID tracking humans I do find the notion of using a RFID Real Time Location System to tag MP’s and making their whereabouts in Parliament public to us all, who they associate with, meetings attended, actually quite an attractive proposal. On the other hand I’d like to think that I trust my represented Member of Parliament enough not to tag them (though for me the recent behavior of some UK politicians has eroded that trust). Personally if I did feel the need to RFID tag my MP to see where they were, then the wrong person is in parliament representing me.
If we get to the point where we RFID tag other human beings, what does that say about trust and the standards of our society?
The school’s superindent and board were invited to attend, as was the vendor. The school board declined and the vendor unfortunately got sick at the last minute. Dr Katherine Albrecht was interviewed on the Alex Jones Show and revealed the following – The Northside Independent School District’s attitude was that the RFID scheme was done, a done deal. Dr Katherine Albrecht then attended a city council meeting later in the day, had her name on the list to speak at the meeting and got told, when at the meeting by the school board, that she would not be allowed to speak. (A repeated behavior by the school board, previously shown at a meeting in September 2012, where parents had little or no right to comment on the RFID scheme.)
At these two US schools there are at least 4,200 students wearing RFID tags round their neck with a Radio Frequency pulsing every 45 seconds emitting up to 75 feet. This frequency is at 433MHz, which is near/just about in the Amateur Radio Frequency and a frequency commonly used for remote keyless entry. 433Mhz is an unliscenced industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) radio band and a simple internet search for 433MHz antenna/receiver shows how available this technology is to buy. (The UWB location RFID at a UK College recently using a Real Time Location System (RTLS) pulsed at a 1 second interval at 6.35-6.75 GHz on an ultra wideband Radio Frequency for up to 100 feet.)
This recent public forum was opportunity to ask questions, voice concerns, discuss responsibilities, privacy and civil liberties of RFID location tracking, potential health issues of RFID and to keep the debate in an open, honest format. Hopefully the prejudice that Andrea has experienced will not have to happen to another individual not wishing to participate in any location tracking device.
A shame that school representatives and the vendor could not attend. I suspect their absence spoke louder than any discussion they may have brought to the forum.
It is good that open debate is happening. That it has been generated by the community is completely commendable. Shame on the Northside Independent School District (NISD) for not instigating an open discussion before RFID location tagging children and allowing a student’s education to be displaced.
We have some extremely sophisticated technology available to us as a society; we need to use it responsibly and honestly with open debate ensuring respect and provision for those who do not wish to consent to its use.
“For the first time since being implemented in August 2012, the “RFID Student Locator Pilot Program” will finally be vetted by parents, students, and community members.
In San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District (NISD), nearly 4,000 children have been issued “Smart ID” badges implanted with an active RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tracking device. NISD has refused to offer a public forum for parents to ask question and voice concerns, so TAG has organized one.
Presentations will be offered by a number of subject matter experts, including Dr. Katherine Albrecht- a Harvard graduate who has done extensive research on RFID, Mike Wade- RFID manufacturer, and (tentatively) a representative from the Texas ACLU.
The second half of our event will offer attendees an opportunity to ask questions of our presenters.
All NISD board members (including Dr. Wood, Superintendent) have been invited to this event in addition to the Principals of the schools which have implemented this pilot program.”
Article – Biometrics and RFID tracking in UK Education
Documenting the rise of biometric and RFID technology used in education
Book – Surveillance Schools
With the growth of surveillance technologies globally, Dr Emmeline Taylor focuses on the phenomenon of the Surveillance School and explores the impact that continual monitoring is having upon school children, education and society.
433MHz military capabilities of tracking students
Interview with Katherine Albrecht, technology and privacy in schools
Katherine Albrecht show - July 2013. Katherine and Pippa King discuss the victories in removing or preventing biometric and other tracking systems from being used on our children.
Interview: Biometrics & RFID in schools, 433Mhz
Interview with Pippa King by Tony Gosling from BCFM - August 2013