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SnakebyteXX
02-10-2005, 05:31 AM
Some parents angry over radio device
Greg Lucas, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Sutter, Sutter County -- Angry parents, saying their children's privacy rights are being violated, have asked the board of the tiny Brittan School District to rescind a requirement that all students wear badges that monitor their whereabouts on campus using radio signals.

Located between the massive silos of Sutter Rice Co. and the Sutter Buttes, this small town has 587 kindergarten through eighth-graders who are the first public school kids in the country to be tracked on campus by such a system, which is designed to ease attendance taking and increase campus security.

"This is the only public school monitoring where children go, with kids walking around wi
1000
th little homing beacons,'' said Nicole Ozer, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer aiding several parents who oppose the badges, which students wear around their necks.

Although all students have identification badges, only seventh- and eighth-graders are being tracked in a test run, according to school officials and representatives of InCom, a Sutter-based company developing the system.

"There is no danger or I wouldn't put it on my son,'' Florrie Turner, a school district employee helping the company develop the software, told the school board at its Tuesday night meeting.

The student tracking system uses radio frequency identification technology used mainly to monitor inventory and livestock.

Ozer said a district in Texas was testing the technology for use on school buses to see that students get on and off.

Several parents in Sutter complained they weren't given a choice about their child participating in the new system and argued that the badges violated their children's right to privacy.

"Our belief is these children have never done anything to give up some of their civil rights. They've never done anything wrong, and they're being tracked," said Michelle Tatro who along with her husband, Jeff, wrote a formal complaint to the school board protesting the program.

Tatro said when her 13-year-old daughter came home from the first day of school in January, when the students began wearing the tags, she had waved the tag in her fist and said, "Look at this. I'm a grocery item. I'm a piece of meat. I'm an orange."

Their daughter was threatened with disciplinary action if she did not participate in the program, according to a letter sent by the district.

Although the board said nothing in response to parental complaints, several attendees defended the system, saying it would keep kids in school, free up more time for teachers to teach and increase security for pupils and teachers.

"It's baffling why so many people are bothered by the district being able to tell them where their kids are at," said Tim Crabtree, a high school teacher who said he hoped the technology would come to his classroom.

The Tatros' complaint and objections by other parents to the tracking system have led the district to relax its rule that all children wear the tags. If parents send a note saying their children don't want to wear the tag, they don't have to display it, but they must carry it on their person until the board makes a decision on the program's future at a special meeting called for next Tuesday.

The badges contain a photo of pupils, their grade level and their name. On the back is a tube roughly the size of a roll of dimes.

Within it is a chip with an antenna attached. As the chip passes underneath a reader mounted above the classroom door, it transmits a 15-digit number, which then is translated into the student's name by software contained in a handheld device used by teachers to check attendance.

Seven classrooms were equipped with the readers, as were two bathrooms. The bathroom readers were never turned on, according to school and company officials, and were removed Wednesday by InCom because of objections by parents.

InCom has also disabled its system and deleted data it has collected to date. Readers have been turned off until the board reaches a decision next week.

Developers of the system say parents concerned over privacy violations don't understand the short range of radio frequency identification devices.

"The tags physically can't be read from a long distance," said Doug Ahlers, an InCom partner.

Several of the aspects of the program the Tatros didn't like were not the idea of InCom but of Principal Earnie Graham.

InCom said it could have tested its software simply by mounting the chip on a blank piece of paper carried by students. It was Graham -- who also wears an ID badge -- who wanted the chip attached to a student identification card with names and photos.

Parents still objected to the requirement their children wear th
1000
e badges.

"You're saying, 'We don't have a choice. They have to wear the badges or they'll be suspended.' That's my child, my blood," said Toni Scrogin, whose daughter attends the school. 'It should be my choice."

Graham said that in retrospect parents should have been consulted about the program rather than simply notifying them about it with a brief blurb in the school newsletter.

But a dry run on the badge readers during summer school caused "no outcry," Graham said. "It wasn't an issue."

Despite testing the new system, the school is still using its old software to take attendance, Graham said. Allowing the testing of InCom's system cost the school nothing, Graham added.

Ahlers said the company had donated some computer equipment to the school for its trouble.


http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/02/10/BADGES.TMP

cheesemouse
02-10-2005, 08:01 AM
YIKES......the cheese returns to his hole and dons his tinfoil hat...... /ccboard/images/graemlins/tongue.gif

DavidMorris
02-10-2005, 08:49 AM
*sigh*

I'm sorry, but I fail to understand the outcry over this (and similar RFID initiatives). I work in an industry that researches and utilitizes RFID technology, and I'm always amazed at the level of paranoia and ignorance about the technology.

It is extremely short-range (passive RFID tag range is from a few inches to a few feet). So the students aren't being tracked every step from the moment they set foot on campus until they leave, but only when they pass in close proximity to a fixed reader or when a teacher scans them with a handheld reader. This is not an eavesdropping device that would tell you what the student is saying or doing, only that they just passed through location X or classroom Y.

I would welcome it in my child's school, even in the bathrooms -- what's so private about knowing a student entered the bathroom? A hall monitor would know the same information. It doesn't violate privacy any more than the ID badges they already wear, and since when do schools need 100% parental permission for policy decisions? The public needs to be educated about the truths of RFID. Sure, like any technology, someone could develop an abusive or intrusive use for it, but in this case and the vast majority of cases it serves a valuable purpose. The idea of being able to trace the last known locations of a missing child would be invaluable IMO.

SnakebyteXX
02-10-2005, 10:41 AM
From where I sit it looks as if we have several life changing developing technologies converging that may eventually eliminate privacy as we know it. GPS tracking - DNA testing - RFID - human chip implantation (a la companies like Verisign (http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/050208/85209_1.html)).

GPS tracking is becoming commonplace in the automotive industry. It's already being used to keep track of some commercial trucking and rental car companies. Service related industries are using it to keep track of their service personnel during the workday. Rental car companies are using it to keep track of their vehicles and to let them know if the leasers are breaking the speed limit while driving. There are rumblings that the automotive insurance industry may some day require GPS tracking in all insured vehicles as a means of determining if you are indeed a 'safe driver'.

DNA testing is becoming faster and more cost effective. It is well known that each of us has a unique DNA fingerprint. Efforts are currently underway to build a national database of DNA records that may some day include the DNA records of every man, woman and child in the country. Imagine a future time when any DNA forensic evidence left at a crime scene can be tied directly to its owner? Imagine a scan able 'DNA thumbprint' on all your credit cards that must match the DNA record on a personalized chip implant buried in your arm before they can be used? Might put a crimp in identity theft, eh?

Add GPS technology to that implanted chip and you have the means of physically tracking everyone in the country. I imagine that this kind of tech would be immensely popular with parents who wished to know the whereabouts of their children 24/7. Might put a crimp in child abductions if not end them entirely.

All of these converging technologies come with downsides as well as upsides. My personal feeling is that regardless of the downsides (loss of privacy) they will eventually be welcomed on the basis of increased safety and freedom from fear.

When that time comes our lives will be irrevocably changed forever.

Snake

DavidMorris
02-10-2005, 11:22 AM
I agree there could potentially be downsides, as I said any technology can potentially be abused. However to fear technology because it COULD be abused is like fearing cars because they can be abused, or fearing alcohol because it can be abused, etc.

<blockquote><font class="small">Quote SnakebyteXX:</font><hr>GPS tracking is becoming commonplace in the automotive industry. It's already being used to keep track of some commercial trucking and rental car companies. Service related industries are using it to keep track of their service personnel during the workday. Rental car companies are using it to keep track of their vehicles and to let them know if the leasers are breaking the speed limit while driving.<hr /></blockquote>
Yep, I've worked in this field too -- a couple years ago I developed our corporate system to integrate with a 3rd party system we install in our truck fleet to do just that. We monitor where the drivers are, their speed, engine RPM's, braking habits (whether they are hard brakers, which eats fuel and increases maintenance costs), etc. All of these things were done to protect company resources and lower costs. IMO if you are on company time using a company resource, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy beyond basic personal privacy such as the act of using the restroom. You'd be amazed at how many truck drivers were stopping off at their girlfriend's house, or detouring through the projects to buy drugs, wasting fuel by leaving their truck running for hours while in a truck stop, or abusing the equipment and the law. This system has virtually put a stop to such shenanigans in our fleet, which is very large (about 300 tractors and over 2000 trailers). It has also allowed us to monitor and fine tune routes and fuel management. We even have the capability -- although not implemented currently -- to disable our trucks should we ever decide it is warranted.

[ QUOTE ]
DNA testing is becoming faster and more cost effective. It is well known that each of us has a unique DNA fingerprint. Efforts are currently underway to build a national database of DNA records that may some day include the DNA records of every man, woman and child in the country. Imagine a future time when any DNA forensic evidence left at a crime scene can be tied directly to its owner? Imagine a scan able 'DNA thumbprint' on all your credit cards that must match the DNA record on a personalized chip implant buried in your arm before they can be used? Might put a crimp in identity theft, eh?<hr /></blockquote>
Yes it would, and I have no problem with a DNA database. We already have fingerprint databases and have for years, does anybody really believe that violates privacy? DNA would be no different. You can't track someone in real-time via their DNA, it could only be compared after-the-fact. So I don't see it as an invasion of privacy -- on the contrary, I welcome it as a way to prevent wrongful prosecution and identity theft/fraud.

[ QUOTE ]
Add GPS technology to that implanted chip and you have the means of physically tracking everyone in the country. I imagine that this kind of tech would be immensely popular with parents who wished to know the whereabouts of their children 24/7. Might put a crimp in child abductions if not end them entirely.<hr /></blockquote>
Embeddable GPS is technically possible but not feasible for many years. GPS currently requires a prominent antenna and a power source. Passive RFID does not require external power, it is energised by the RF field of the scanning antenna. The GPS signal is far too weak to drive a self-powered device. And until such things would be involuntarily and permanently embedded in a person (unlikely), people would always have the ability to remove them. Not only that but they are easy enough to shield/jam/disable. Regarding tracking of children/minors, I'm all for it -- it's my old-school opinion that they are not entitled to the same levels of rights and freedoms as adults. My kids hated that but now that they are having kids of their own, they understand and agree. Parents should have the authority if they see fit to monitor their children's activities and whereabouts, 24/7 if necessary. I came close to buying one of those black box/GPS devices for the car that tell you where your child is driving, how fast, etc. but at the time the cost was prohibitive and my kids didn't keep a car for very long.

Maybe it's just because I work in the technology field but I embrace these technologies for the benefit they can provide. As long as everyone involved has a clear understanding of their use and usefullness, I believe they are mostly beneficial and negligibly detrimental. But there will always be those uneducated or ignorant paranoids who curse the technology without the slightest understanding of it. It's up to those of us who understand the technology to both educate the masses and be vigilant in exposing any abuses of that technology. That's the only way it will gain widespread trust among the masses.

SPetty
02-10-2005, 02:57 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote DavidMorris:</font><hr>I have no problem with a DNA database. We already have fingerprint databases and have for years, does anybody really believe that violates privacy? DNA would be no different. You can't track someone in real-time via their DNA, it could only be compared after-the-fact. So I don't see it as an invasion of privacy -- on the contrary, I welcome it as a way to prevent wrongful prosecution and identity theft/fraud. <hr /></blockquote>Granted, I'm not well versed in DNA testing and usage, but I believe there's a huge difference between DNA and a fingerprint.

DNA can be used for so much more than simple identification. It can be used to identify if you have particular diseases, it can be used to guess if you are susceptible to certain diseases, it can be used to determine maternity/paternity, etc. It can probably even be used for cloning. It is so much more than a simple fingerprint.

And yes, I hate that I have to give a thumbprint to get a driver's license even though I am not a criminal. /ccboard/images/graemlins/tongue.gif

DavidMorris
02-10-2005, 04:49 PM
You're right, DNA does offer much more than fingerprints, but I just don't see how it could practically be used against you (unless you were a criminal).

I'm no DNA expert either, so I wonder just how many diseases can be identified just from a DNA profile, aside from genetic disorders that mutate the genes themselves. I mean, AIDS for example wouldn't show up in a DNA profile would it? As for predicting disease, I'd think other more specific tests and a family history would have to be included to make any meaningful predictions. The disease angle just doesn't bother me much.

The maternity/paternity thing could definitely be used, which I suppose could be considered an invasion if someone was trying to hide something, but I'm sure DNA databanks would be tightly guarded and access-controlled, much like credit reports are today. Only authorized parties or the government during an investigation should be allowed access, so I still don't buy into the privacy violation concerns -- the government today can know anything about anybody that it chooses to, DNA or no DNA.

To me the potential benefits far outweight the negatives.