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Another Student RFID Tagging Project Raises Questions

The New York Times ran a story yesterday about an RFID-based student-tagging initiative that has taken hold in Spring, Texas.
Nov 17, 2004This article was originally published by RFID Update.

November 17, 2004—The New York Times ran a story yesterday about an RFID-based student-tagging initiative that has taken hold in Spring, Texas. The district's 28,000 students will be given RFID-equipped ID badges to wear around their necks or carry in their pockets. A badge's RFID tag is read as its owner - a student - gets on and off the school bus, when it is deliberately passed in front of a bus-mounted RFID reader. The read data is then transmitted to the central system by a cellular call, where it is accessible by the authorities and school staff. One might assume that the system is primarily an anti-kidnapping measure, which advocates do indeed claim is a benefit. But Spring has never seen a student kidnapped, so the (unanimous) decision to implement the $180K system seems odd. And in fact, the local police chief acknowledges that the system will be used more "to reassure frantic parents, for example, calling because their child, rather than coming home as expected, went to a friend's house, an extracurricular activity or a Girl Scout meeting."

This eagerness to roll out potentially privacy-compromising RFID technology whose benefit is dubious at best smacks of the VeriChip situation. (Remember the anti-VeriChip argument that implanting RFID tags in patients actually won't, as VeriChip claims, do much to alleviate the healthcare industry's medical record-keeping mess.) That is, even if you're not a card-carrying ACLU member or Seventh Day Adventist, you are probably legitimately wary of going gung-ho with human RFID tracking if it doesn't really solve any problems. (Registration with nytimes.com is required to read this story.)

Read the article at nytimes.com
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