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    Houston Chronicle: Tracking devices used in school badges

    Earlier this year, Northern Arizona University announced plans to use wireless ID card reader technology — the description sounds like radio frequency identification (RFID) technology — to track student attendance in classes, and I discussed my objections.

    Those were college students. Now, the Houston Chronicle reports that two school districts in Texas (the Spring and Santa Fe school districts) are using RFID badges to track kids.

    Identification badges for some students in both school districts now include tracking devices that allow campus administrators to keep tabs on students’ whereabouts on campus. School leaders say the devices improve security and increase attendance rates. [...]

    But some parents and privacy advocates question whether the technology could have unintended consequences. The tags remind them of George Orwell’s Big Brother, and they worry that hackers could figure a way to track students after they leave school. Identity theft and stalking could become serious concerns, some said. [...]

    Spring has been steadily expanding the system since December 2008. Currently, about 13,500 of the district’s 36,000 students have the upgraded badges, which are just slightly thicker than the average ID tag to allow for the special chip.

    Chip readers placed strategically on campuses and on school buses can pick up where a student is – or at least where they left their badge. The readers cannot track students once they leave school property, said Christine Porter, Spring’s associate superintendent for financial services. [...]

    Parent Jennifer Alvarez said she has several concerns about the technology – from whether the chips could have negative health implications to whether predators could hack into the system. [...]

    State officials were surprised to learn about the technology, and urged districts to offer an alternative to families with concern.

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