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    Boston Globe: New student card: Big benefit or Big Brother?

    The Boston Globe reports on a pilot program for the RFID-enabled  “BostONEcard,” which will be used to take attendance for public school students and “to make it easier for some public school students to use city services by providing them with one card they can use to ride the MBTA, withdraw books from city libraries, play sports, attend after-school programs at community centers, and access meal programs at their schools.” (Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology transmits data wirelessly from a chip or tag to a reader.)

    This is the latest program that uses technology to track students. Earlier this year, Northern Arizona University announced plans to use wireless ID card reader technology to track student attendance. A few weeks ago, the Houston Chronicle reported that two school districts in Texas (the Spring and Santa Fe school districts) are using RFID badges to track kids. In September, the San Francisco Chronicle had an editorial about the use of an RFID system to track children’s attendance in a head start program.

    The Boston Globe reports:

    This program is starting at the Josiah Quincy Upper School in Chinatown, where all 530 students in grades 6 through 12 are being provided a card, which has multiple barcodes, a radio frequency device to use on the T, and their photos. The city will evaluate the program at the end of the academic year and consider expanding it next year to all Boston Public School students in middle school and high school.

    Chris Osgood, cochair of the mayor’s office of New Urban Mechanics, said he hoped the information generated by the cards would allow city officials to develop a single picture of whether students use libraries, community centers, and other programs. […]

    He and others noted the potential privacy issues of compiling so much data that tracks the movements and choices of individual students.

    “This may not be Big Brother, but it certainly feels like Little Brother,’’ said Carol Rose, American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts executive director.

    She questioned whether the information could be subpoenaed by law enforcement agencies or whether it could be surreptitiously slipped to marketing companies.

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