Category Archives: Legal

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.

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Ultra wideband RFID tracking children in the UK – an invasion of privacy?

West Cheshire College and its tagging of students with active RFID was reported in the The Guardian’s article from 19th November 2013 ‘Is UK college’s RFID chip tracking of pupils an invasion of privacy?

RFID tracking at West Cheshire College taken from the video made of the system by the supplier, Zebra Technologies

RFID tracking pupils at West Cheshire College taken from the video made of the system by the supplier, Zebra Technologies

It is only an invasion of privacy if one is fully aware of being tracked.  If the data subject is blissfully unaware of the ubiquitous technology it carries, then there is an ignorance of the invasion of privacy the RFID tag is perpetrating.

Parents of the students tagged with RFID at West Cheshire College had no knowledge their children were being tracked every second by an active RFID chip.  The college can provide no literature given to students about this and no privacy impact assessment was done.  The college can only “assume that information about RFID was also communicated verbally to studentsduring induction in which “the induction process is covered verbally with students”.

An adult pops a RFID tag round a child’s neck and assumes that this second by second tracking was communicated effectively, verbally during an induction?  The fact that not one student or parent objected to this rings warning bells.

Did no intelligent thinking adult at the college think that possibly, just quite possibly, that verbally informing students about electronically tagging them may bring up issues of consent from a minor and that perhaps this level of communication may leave the college vulnerable to criticism and, at the very worst, possible litigation.  And did no one there consider that electronically RFID tagging another human and viewing their location in real time is compromising their privacy, maybe even just a tiddy-widdy bit?

Apart from the invasive intrusion of an adult peering into where children are –  who they hang out with, when they are visiting the toilet, shower, school nurse – no privacy checks or advice from Department for Education, Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), Children’s Commissioner or any legal body (see question 1 and 2) was undertaken by the college.

On top of the lack of regard to procedures concerning consent and privacy considerations, the college did not know when they started RFID tagging the children.  Really? – yes really.  Asked about when they started RFID tagging children, under a Freedom of Information Act request, the college replied that no information was held on this at all.  As this was a fairly surprising answer from the college, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who oversees the Freedom of Information Act, was asked to intervene.  Indeed, amazingly, West Cheshire College also confirmed to the ICO that they really did not (honest guv) have any information about when they started RFID tagging children there.

Bearing in mind that lying under the Freedom of Information Act is an offence and that “A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine“, we must take these answers from the college as gospel.

The Guardian article failed to mention cost which came in at £1,050,242 (ex VAT).  Over a million pounds of public money spent on a RFID human tracking system that there is no information about and that the college has now scrapped due to thesoftware would not communicate effectively to the current register system” and “escalating costs“.  A million pound spent on a RFID system the college cannot not even recall when implemented?

What an amazing, jawdropping sequence of events.  This could almost be made into the perfect example of a ‘what not to do when RFID tagging children in education’ handbook.  A truely epic fail.

So back to the question ‘Is UK college’s RFID chip tracking of pupils an invasion of privacy?‘ – most probably.  Here is the video of the system on Youtube – you decide.

West Cheshire College. Nothing to hide? Then nothing to fear, surely?

Youtube banning video Aug 8th 2013Well, it had to happen at some point.  West Cheshire College have joined the RFID Journal and Zebra Technologies in the need to erase evidence of their part in tracking children, using a real time location system, at West Cheshire College with active RFID for 3 years since 2010.

West Cheshire College contacted Youtube about ‘copyright infringement’ on the video posted on our channel detailing their RFID tagging of students.  Presumably any copyright infringement is on images of the college not the content of RFID tagging the kids, as the college never claims to have ‘accepted‘ the technology stating they were only trialing tracking students (for whom?) with RFID that they used for 3 years.

Does West Cheshire College’s intervention in yet more removal of evidence from the internet of RFID tagging children at the college fan the fire of an attempted cover up?  Along with the of removal of press releases, articles and video by the RFID Journal and Zebra Technologies on the same topic, I’m not quite sure what else it does suggest really.

Green light to RFID track Oregon’s school children?

USA – Oregon Senate passed a bill on 11th June 2013 seemingly giving schools the right to impose RFID tracking on it’s students.  However HB2386 appears to have started life back in January 2013 with exactly the opposite intent, reading that:

HB2386Prohibits school district from requiring student to wear, carry or use any item with radio frequency identification device if device is used for purpose of locating or tracking student or taking attendance.

The original January 2013 wording goes on to say that a school may use RFID to track property, such as instruction manuals and electric items, but if a student takes possession of said property the school must inform the student that the property, therefore the student, is being tracked.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) urged members of the Oregon Senate to sign the bill stating that this “Common sense proposal is critical to protect the privacy of our students” with information being communicated transparently about the use and option to use RFID

What could possibly go wrong?

By June 2013 the wording and intent of the bill changed substantially, to read:

HB2386 “Directs State Board of Education to adopt standards for school district board to incorporate into any policy that requires student to wear, carry or use item with radio frequency identification device for purpose of locating or tracking student or taking attendance.

This rewriting of HB2386 seems to go on to say that a Oregon school district cannot require a student to wear RFID for tracking unless the Oregon State Board adopts standard rules about the use of RFID with children, as decided upon as in the above statement.  This appears to read that if a school wants to impose RFID tracking on students the State Board has to agree to it under (their own) standards/rules.  Informing a student of the fact they may be carrying a RFID tracked object has also been dropped from the wording of the original text.

…yet point 2 (c) states that the bill would allow for “…a student or a parent of a student to choose not to have the student wear, carry or use an item with a radio frequency identification device.” (?)  Can a student not consent when a school has required it to carry RFID tracking, backed by the State Board?  Is this another court case waiting to happen?

The bill takes effect as of July 2013.  The history of the bill going through the Oregon Senate is here.

Currently Oregon does not use RFID to track students in any of it’s schools, so maybe a little strange they have spent senate time on this bill.  But with other schools in the US introducing RFID for financial (funding according to attendance) and “safety” reasons, perhaps this comes as no surprise in that Oregon does not want a situation similar to the adverse publicity the Hernandez case in Texas brought to school boards RFID tracking students – better to set the ground rules first.

Oregon StateWith over 850,000 children in Oregon, with 550,000 K-12 students, there is a fairly healthy market for RFID systems with perhaps this bill giving a green light to the RFID industry that these schools are good to go.  

How sad that HB2386 has been changed with the potential to destroy children’s rights and civil liberties, when there was a great chance to preserve the next generation’s freedoms and our societies integrity in respecting our children’s privacy.

RFID – Schools must “consult fully with parents and pupils”

There is no law against tracking people in the UK however in order to do so the person who is being tracked must give Data Protection Acttheir consent for the tracking to be legal.

In the UK Schedule 1 of the Data Protection Act 1988 (DPA) states that “Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully” .  One aspect of lawfully processing data is the area of consent, covered in Schedule 2 of the DPA.  The first point in Schedule 2 is that the Data Controller (the school) has to gain the consent of the Data Subject (the pupil) in order to process information about them. “The data subject has given his consent to the processing.”

Tracking children in education with a real time location system (RTLS) using RFID tags absolutely falls under this legislation.

An email received from the Department of Education states the following:

Thank you for your email of 1 January 2013 addressed to the Secretary of State, with enclosures, about the implications of the use of Radio Frequency Identification Technology.  I have been asked to reply. [Case Ref 2013/0000789]

As you will be aware, schools and colleges are Data Controllers in their own right, and as such, must comply with the data protection principles set out in the Data Protection Act 1998.  For example, the first data protection principle requires that personal data must be used fairly and lawfully and that one of the conditions in Schedule 2 to the Data Protection Act must be met.  These include: obtaining the consent of the data subject; compliance with legal obligations; performance of contractual obligations; and the processing being necessary for the purposes of legitimate interests of the data controller.  I understand from your email that you have also been in contact with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and I would suggest that the ICO would be the appropriate body for advising on the particular case you have pursued.

As with the introduction of parallel systems such as CCTV, this Department would look to schools and colleges to consult fully with parents and pupils before implementing this kind of technology.

UK Department of Education – tracking children in education with RFID:

“…schools and colleges to consult fully with parents and pupils before implementing this kind of [RFID] technology“.

RFID – “It’s going to make you sick.”

nav-logo-small-newAt the Texas House of Representatives House Bill 101 was heard yesterday, 19th March 2013.  The audio/video can be found here 2 hours 45 minute in.

From My San Antonio – Andrea Hernandez, one of the students that refused to carry the tracking RFID and was subsequently expelled from John Jay High School, ” told legislators Tuesday that she became ill because of radiation from the tags in other students’ IDs.
 “It’s like being in an X-ray machine for eight hours,” Andrea Hernandez said. “It’s going to make you sick.”” 

Incredibly the vendor of the active RFID 433MHz tags that the students wear, Michael Wade, stated that “said they [RFID tags] do not produce any radiation. – “None at all,” he said.”

…move along people, clearly nothing to see here then?

Michael Wade is uninformed.  Radio frequency is electromagnetic radiation.   The following is taken from this EU document “Is RFID safe in the workplace” and talks about the effects of RFID radiation.

Radio communications and microwave frequencies are known as radiofrequency, which fall within the kHz to GHz range.  In the case of RFID, the frequencies used are in the order of 145 kHz, 13.56 MHz, 800-900 MHz and 2.4 GHz.  There are two different kinds of electromagnetic radiation. Depending on their major effects, electromagnetic fields can be divided into ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation.  As radiofrequency photon energy up to 300 GHz is not high enough to break these bonds, these kinds of electromagnetic fields are known as Non-Ionizing fields. Fields with frequencies above this limit are known as Ionizing Electromagnetic Fields.  (433MHz tags used at John Jay)

Ionization is a process that breaks the atom-electron bond, thus creating molecules without sufficient electrons to achieve a neutral charge. This causes molecular changes that may produce biological damage, including changes in DNA.

Also this article from the World Health Organisation about mobile phone frequencies, 450 and 2700 MHz, operating near the 433MHz RFID tag frequency that John Jay High use.

Radio frequency radiation and health effects is too large a topic to be covered here in any depth but there is a mounting body of evidence to suggest that electromagnetic frequencies can have an effect on health – this is from radiation.  So statements from RFID vendors, that could be described as misleading and uninformed, need a little more research.  The health effects of active and passive RFID are known.   With good evidence to suggest radio frequencies can harm humans, here are just a handful of excellent websites dealing with this topic:

Contactless RFIDhttp://www.radiationresearch.org/
http://stopsmartmeters.org/
http://www.wifi-in-schools-australia.org/
http://wiredchild.org/

Unfortunately these frequencies are invisible and we have no knowledge of what we are accumatively exposed to.  Therefore eliminating one less potential health hazard from our lives by not wishing to carry an active RFID tag could considered a prudent action to take.

So though individuals may choose not to consent to using RFID due to personal, spiritual, privacy/civil liberties concerns, it may appear that there is no choice whether or not to participate in the electrosmog that comes from others use of, RFID, radio frequencies technologies.

Missouri bill proposes prohibiting RFID in schools

Missouri SB239USA –  Missouri Education Watchdog reported that Senator Ed Emery filed “a bill in Missouri that would not allow such practices as RFID tracking of students or Polar Go Fit bracelets for tracking information.”

The Bill SB239Prohibits school districts from requiring a student to use an identification device that uses radio frequency identification technology to transmit certain information’

This bill joins the other three current bills in Texas put forward prohibiting the use of RFID with children/students in US schools.