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 frequencydevices 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 suggestdistancing 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.
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.
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 the “software 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.
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?)
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.
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.
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