We just received a press release from the Northern California chapter of the ACLU via our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Seems Brittan School District of Sutter, California (about an hour north of Sacramento) has started requiring that their students wear identity badges prominently around their neck at all times during the school day. The new badges are also enabled with a Radio Frequency Identifier Device, or RFID chip, so that the children's movements can be tracked as they move through RFID sensors around the building.
As Cedric Laurent of the Electronic Privacy Information Center points out, "The monitoring of children with RFID tags is comparable to the tracking of cattle, shipment pallets, or very dangerous criminals in high-security prisons." Hmmm, that sounds about right. What's funny is how few people would find this statement to be in any way shocking. Isn't every child treated as a potential felon, with metal detectors and locker searches? Aren't we fattening them on junk food and pumping them with antibiotics like so many sides of veal? Don't we budget for schools by headcount, as though we're running a really low-margin shipping concern? From district parents Michael and Dawn Cantrall:
"Forcing my child to be tracked with a RFID device – without our consent or knowledge – is a complete invasion of our privacy...Our 7th grader came home wearing the ID badge prominently displayed around her neck– if a predator wanted to target my child, the mandatory school ID card has just made that task easier."
As ACLU-NC Civil Liberties Policy Director Nicole Ozer points out, a cheap RFID reader device could potentially be used by pedophiles to read the chip ID for themselves. And as we all know, sexual predators are generally early adopters when it comes to potentially helpful technology like online chats. For more on RFID in schools, check out the EFF's policy page.Image of the $429 Protege Handheld RFID Reader for Palm Tungsten PDA's from RFIDusa.com. Don't worry, there aren't any restrictions on ordering or transporting this cheap, portable and versatile RFID reader.