Natural News reports that a Rhode Island school district will begin testing a program to monitor students by implanting radio frequency identification (RFID) tags into their schoolbags. RFID technology transmits data wirelessly and is usually used to track packages in warehouses or pets.
Each chip would be programmed with a student identification number, and would be read by an external device installed in one of two school buses. The buses would also be fitted with global positioning system (GPS) devices.
Parents or school officials could log onto a school web site to see whether and when specific children had entered or exited which bus, and to look up the bus’s current location as provided by the GPS device.
This isn’t the first time that schools have tried using RFID to track students as stores track inventory or farmers track cattle.
There are plenty of questions to be asked about this Rhode Island program: 1) Were parents consulted? Was parental approval given? 2) Is there an opt-out – can parents or children refuse to use this system or is considered a part of attending public school? 3) Has the school district solved the privacy and security problems that arise from the tracking of individual students, especially since this data is accessible via the Internet?
According to Natural News , “Because the pilot program is being provided to the school district at no cost, it did not require approval from the Rhode Island ethics commission.” It is disturbing that the lack of cost allowed the school district to circumvent the state ethics commission. What are the responsibilities and powers of the state ethics commission; can it investigate this program even though it is not required to investigate?