Tag Archives: children

France – Bluetooth tracking kids in school

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

 

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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.

OBE for ‘RFID tagging’ ex college principal

Sara Mogel RFID taggin students

Sara Mogel OBE – was Principal at the first UK school, West Cheshire College, to use active RFID tags to track students on campus

Sara Mogel, ex principal of West Cheshire College.  The woman who thought it was a good idea to spend over £1million of taxpayers money on RFID tags to hang round students neck to track them in real time, gets an OBE for ‘for services to vocational education‘.

I think it is fair to say her contribution to UK education and the RFID industry is certainly unique, though whether it deserves an OBE is debatable.  She is responsible for the decision to hang microwave radio frequency devices around children’s necks in a ground breaking trial of ultra wideband RFID, tracking the children on campus every second.  The first instance of a school in the UK using RFID technology to track individual children’s every movements…  that was scrapped in February 2013 just before she left. (I wonder if the college got a £1,000,000 refund for this?)

No reporting in the local press.  No communication with parents.  The college had no idea of the specification of the RFID, worryingly therefore no information on the specific absorption rate (SAR) of the radio frequencies on the human body.  The health effects of radio frequencies (RF) on the human body are seemingly unquantifiable at present but as more research is done on this topic it is becoming more apparent that caution should be taken and prudencey exercised to limit our bodies to RF exposure.  The RFID journal themselves suggest distancing the human body 1 meter from a reader/antenna.

Let us sincerely hope that there will be no ill health effects from the students wearing RFID tags under Sara Mogel OBE’s watch at West Cheshire College and this does not come and bite her back in the future.

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.

RFID Journal – People should remain at least 1 meter (3.3 feet) from a RFID reader/antenna

RFID reader definitionThe RFID Journal is one of the world’s foremost sources of RFID news globally and has reported positively on the benfits of RFID tagging children and teachers in schools with active RFID.   On the 4th November 2013 this question was asked on their ‘Ask the Experts Forum’ – Are there any health risks with prolonged exposure to ultra high frequency (UHF) radio frequency (RF) fields?  

Interesting then when Mark Roberti, the Founder and Editor of the RFID Journal, then advises in his response that:

people should remain at least 1 meter (3.3 feet) from a reader.


Really.  How is it okay for the RFID Journal to report 
positively about schools tagging children and teachers wearing ultra high frequency (UHF) active RFID tags, effectively endorsing the wearing of active RFID chips, when they also comment on the very potential health hazards of radio frequencies?

RFID Active definitionIn the USA Northside Independant School District RFID tagged their student population with active 433MHz RFID tags from 2012 until 2013.  In Germany students and teachers wear active RFID tags compatible with wifi 2.45GHz, in the US the same tag is being worn by teachers.  West Cheshire College students in the UK wore ultra wideband (UWB) active RFID tags around their neck in a lanyard, emitting a 6.35-6.75GHz radio frequency every second, from 2010 until 2013.  West Cheshire College admitted to viewing students in “peer groups” with their RFID real time location system  – so not just for registration or safety reasons then?

Daniel Engels, “Director of the University of Texas at Arlington‘s Radio Frequency Innovation and Technology Center, and an associate professor in the college’s Department of Electrical Engineering” was quoted in a previous RFID Journal article from June 2009 entitled ‘Can RFID be harmful to the human body‘ stated that:

“The basic result of all of our work is that really close proximity to UHF [ultrahigh-frequency] RFID readers  [antennas] has potential health issues”

Should we be tagging children and teachers with active RFID when the  International Agency for Research on Cancer/World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as a possible carcinogen to humans, causing cancers and tumors?  Erm… I think that would be a no!

Maybe schools be prudent and ready themselves for possible litigation claims in the future…

RFID UHF definition   RFID Interrogater definition

A child consenting to be tracked should be given a choice, and what about the parents right to know who is tracking their children?

Against RFID in schools

Tracking capabilities as shown in their supplier’s video ‘Optimizing the Learning Experience with a Zebra Tracking Solution”

When a UK college recently used a RFID real time location system to track students on their campuses in Chester and Ellesmere Port from 2010 – 2013.  Apart from whoever thought this was a good idea somewhere in the tiers of the college management, how did the college manage to persuade the thousands of students it tracked, that this was a good idea too?  How did the students consent to staff being able to “… look at them [students and staff] in groups, such as peer groups.”  Locations being seen in, possibly toilets, showers, school nurse, etc?

In a reply to a Freedom of Information request, this is how the college gained fully informed consent – apparently “Information relating to the RFID tags and their purpose was covered during College induction/ enrolment.”

When pressed further on this consent gaining process the college refuses to answer questions.  Only when the Information Commissioner’s Office intervenes it is revealed quite how the college considers meaningful consent is gained from students to be tracked by an RFID tag ‘bleeping’ it’s whereabouts every second“we can confirm that the induction process is covered verbally with students. It is fair to assume that information about RFID was also communicated verbally to students”.

Erm, is that consent?

The college refused to answer a Freedom of Information request, December 2012, and upon an internal review *still* could not answer one question, which was a simply yes/no answer, as to whether or not staff were RFID tagged – astonishing.  Yet when pressed by the Information Commissioner’s Office, in July 2013 (full report here) the college replied, ‘staff badge tags remained inactive and were not in active use for any purpose. Staff who had a RFID badge for first aid purposes also had inactive badges’  (why would staff carry an inactive RFID for first aid? and why not state that initially?)

RTLS Mapping West Cheshire College

It’s difficult to see what is happening here – either a shocking inability of knowledge or lack of awareness of  responsibility to answer basic questions under the Freedom of Information Act.  But when children are tracked in this manner, literally their every move with the potential to be scrutinized, there should be absolute transparency.

RFID make kids safer apparently

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.

give_me_liberty_1Is 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.

Patrick Henry Quote