Tag Archives: refusal

RFID for pupil attendance not fit for purpose

Northside Independent School District (NSID), San Antonio, Texas, have scrapped the 433 MHz active RFID tracking technology used to log students in school.  It was claimed tracking children with RFID would improve attendance.  In reality it made virtually no difference whatsoever.  “student attendance increased by only 0.5 percent on the high school campus where the program was tested. Results at the middle school campus were even lower, at 0.07 percent.”

What it did do was made for a good exercise to see how tagging kids with 433MHz – the same frequency used by the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and NATO to track their assets around the USA – worked in a civilian population.

With Skyview (aptly named) High School recently installing active RFID tags for staff and students working with wifi 2.4GHz for “safety” reasons, on the back of Sandy Hook, and knowing that RFID to improve attendance is a dead duck in the water, maybe the focus on perceived and totally unproven safety aspects of RFID at NSID may com into play – lets hope not.

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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 – “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.

West Cheshire College stops tracking students with RFID

West Cheshire College, UK, have stopped tracking their students with active RFID tags since using the technology from 2010.
Active location tracking RFID West Cheshire College

On the 26th of February a complaint was made to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) concerning the college’s refusal to answer a Freedom of Information request about consent and civil liberties regarding using active RFID tags to trace students movements around West Cheshire College campuses at Handbridge and Ellesmere Port.

On 27th February the college states they do not use the RFID:  As the trial has now concluded, all RFID tags are inactive and have been recalled.” 

On 18th February West Cheshire College, in an FOIR reply, appears still to be using a student RFID location system and on 27th February, 9 days later, the college states it has ceased using the ultra wideband RFID location system.

A RFID system so excellent that the college sent an employee to Florida last April, 2012, to lecture the RFID industry on the Return On Investment (ROI) the RFID provided for the college (see 2pm on April 5th).  However there are unanswered Freedom of Information requests regarding how the RFID was funded, if indeed the college has ever paid for the system.  This then presents the question as to why would West Cheshire College send an employee to Florida, USA, to lecture the RFID industry on a new ultra wideband RFID standard on a return on investment that the college never invested in?

From West Cheshrie College presenting a Return On Investment (ROI) presentation in April 2012 in Florida, to scrapping it in February 2013 it would seem the college has also scrapped all information whatsoever on the groundbreaking industry standard RFID  they have had in the college since 2010.

On the 27th February 2013, a day after a complaint to the ICO, West Cheshire College offered a late reply to the Freedom of Information request asked on 10th December 2012 regarding consent and civil liberties.  After the college did a “search for information” it can uncover “no information” at all on how consent was gained from students, whether the college did a Privacy Impact Assessment to access the RFID or how the college could use a RFID for registration when “The technology is not used for tracking of individual students“.  Maybe that is why the RFID was scrapped – how can a system that does not individually track children work for registration? …and it took them 2 years to come to that conclusion?  (Really?)  There are anomalies in all this that seem not to add up.

One could draw an opinion that West Cheshire College are evading questions on why an unstandardised active RFID location system has been used to track children for over 2 years.  There are unanswered questions on how consent was gained and how the college, days after scrapping the technology, seem to have completely expunged all records of the ultra wideband RFID and in fact have no evidence of the RFID real time location system used there.

The Information Commissioner’s Office is now handling the complaint of how West Cheshire College managed their legal obligation to give information under the Freedom of Information Act.  This active type RFID technology has the capacity to be used covertly and the potential for lack of transparency by educational establishments using a real time location system is completely plausible.

Contactless RFIDDifferent people have differing levels of privacy.  If you or your child are wearing or carrying a card or tag that communicates remotely to a system and you have concerns how ‘smart’ or ‘contactless’ technology works – ask questions.  We all know data gathering is vast in today’s age.  Making sure you are aware of who is accessing your data is prudent, none of us truly know where our information may end up, who views it and how it may be used for or against us.

Hard to get information about UK college’s RFID student location system

West Cheshire College staff RFID conference, Disneyland, Florida, 2012A college in the UK, West Cheshire College has a new industry standard Ultra Wideband RFID Real Time Location System used to monitor students in the college.

The RFID tracking scheme is proving such a success that Kevin Francis, West Cheshire College’s Building Services Area manager, travelled to Florida in April 2012 to speak about the Return Of Investment (ROI) the RFID tracking system gives the college at a ‘RFID Live!’ conference.

Interestingly, information from West Cheshire College about its RFID student tracking system does not flow quite as freely here in the UK . West Cheshire College’s response to recent Freedom of Information requests about the RFID location technology, and how it is used, could be considered patchy at the least.

The following questions were asked on January 3rd 2013 under the Freedom of Information Act.  A simple ‘confirm’, ‘not confirm’ or ‘not know’ was required from West Cheshire College.  The points raised in the questions were all reported in the media the college had communicated with.
Not particularly difficult then?

1) Please could West Cheshire college confirm if the below details* are correct and that these are the characteristics of RFID tags the  students use:

* Ultra wideband RFID tags emit brief radio frequency signals across the entire 6.35 to 6.75 GHz frequency band.
* Average battery lifespan of a RFID tag is seven years.
* Receivers, which can receive tag signals from up to 328 feet  away, are located throughout the campus buildings, in order to ensure that the tags can be pinpointed no matter where within the school a student might be located.
* RFID tags provides accuracy within 1 meter (3.3 feet).
* RFID Tag transmission rate of once per second.
* West Cheshire College uses RFID with a real time location system.
* The real time location system enables observation of student and staff in peer groups.
    
If any the RFID detail above is not correct please could you advise accordingly how the RFID used differs with the above points.

3) Please could West Cheshire College confirm if the following is correct:

* West Cheshire College deployed RFID technology in two phases — first at its Chester Campus, in 2010, and then at its newly built Ellesmere Port Campus in 2011*

West Cheshire College wrote back refusing to answer the above saying that “Under section 14(2), public authorities do not have to comply with repeated requests for the same information from the same person. In reaching a jugement, we have found that your request for information in [above]questions 1 and 3 were a repeated request to the one submitted to the College on 23rd November 2012”. 

Now we are having problems seeing quite where and how the college replied to the above questions in the below answers they gave to the Freedom of Information request on 23rd November.  If anyone can clarify what we have missed, please let us know.  We simply would like to see the information.

1) Does West Cheshire College or any associated campuses use radio frequency identification (RFID) tags with students.
A: We introduced RFID on a trial basis to assess how the technology could be used for automatic registration of students and to improve the efficiency of the building.

2) What are these RFID tags used for? Please detail the applications. I.e. attendance, cafeteria, libraries, etc.
A: We are currently trialling the technology for the purposes of automatic registration of students and to improve the efficiency of the building. We are also trialling the technology for tracking the movement of physical assets i.e. ipads, laptops and camera equipment. The technology is not used for tracking of individual students. A decision as to the future use of the technology will be made at the end of the trial period (this is expected to be completed in March 2013).

[N.B. Quite how “automatic registration” happens without the “tracking of individual students” prompted another Freedom of Information request, sent to West Cheshire College 10th December, and included this point to be clarified.  West Cheshire College wrote back refusing to answer.]

3) How many students carry RFID tags.
 A: All full-time students (2000) were issued with RFID tags as part of the trial.

4) Please provide any literature given to students informing them of RFID tags use within the college and its campuses.
A: Information relating to the RFID tags and their purpose was covered during College induction/ enrolment.

West Cheshire College’s staff, whose salaries are paid for by public money, have bought a  RFID tracking system, with public money.   The RFID, thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, is bought and paid for by us, the British public.  Strange then how West Cheshire College refuse to answer perfectly legitimate Freedom of Information requests about how they have spent our money – but yet will communicate, to the point of sending member of staff to another continent, to speak to the RFID industry about the RFID Real Time Location System they have.

If this RFID technology is so great a Return On Investment, why not tell us how our UK taxpayers money has been spent?   Why there is no mention of it on West Cheshire College’s website?  Or even why, at the very least, there is no declaration of the RFID tracking system to monitor students movements on their entry on UK’s Data Protection Register ?

Yet again, more questions than there are answers.

RFID Protest, San Antonio, USA

Texas, USA – From We Are Change San Anotonio featuring a couple more students who have decided to reject John Jay High School’s RFID system.

Steven Loredo, is the student who wrote a newpaper article for the school magazine about Andrea Hernandez and was suspended for a few days to trying to publish his story. Here he goes into more detail of how the school treated him.

These students should be applauded for having their own points of view and being brave enough to voice them – not prejudiced against for refusing to comply with the school’s RFID system.

The school’s behaviour sets a dangerous precident of discrimination.

Three US state lawmakers introduce bills to ban RFID in schools

Northside Independent School District’s expulsion of student, Andrea Hernandez, this month has demonstrated how RFID application might save school dollars but clearly does not work in the fact that it has affected one students education.  Has it really been worth the saving in money the schools district claims will happen in the light of the fact John Jay High school discriminated against a child for refusing to take part in the RFID programme.?

With the religious, privacy and ethical issues involved here we look forward to seeing how the debate goes with the below bills filed in Texas recently that would prohibit RFID in state schools.

We have this technology and we cannot undo the technology but we need to use it responsibly and respectfully – which is why an open and honest debate is required.

TexasHB101 – introduced by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. Cindy Burkett in November 2012
– Where a school district may not require a student to use a RFID device or similar technology to transmit information about the student or track the location of the student.
– Where a schools district may allow voluntary use of RFID
– Schools districts must provide an alternative identification

HB102 – introduced by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. Cindy Burkett in November 2012
– A school district may not require a student to use a RFID device or similar technology to identify the student, transmit information or track the location of the student.

SB173 – introduced by Senator Craig Estes in January 2013
– A school district may not require a student to use a RFID device or similar technology to identify the student, transmit information or track the location of the student.

From My Antonio – Kolkhorst said she thinks the Legislature needs to debate the appropriateness  of that use, which she hopes will happen now that Northside’s pilot program has  drawn scrutiny.  Kolkhorst said her bills on the issue in the past haven’t been able to make  it out of committee.

I am concerned that this technology can be very dehumanizing,” Kolkhorst  said. “I really don’t like how parents don’t have much input and think it is an  example of government overstepping its bounds.”