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.