While the commercial uses for RFID are being investigated by many groups including the FDA, this smart technology is also being used for tracking people. Earlier this year, two schools in San Antonio, TX, Northside ISD and Jones Middle School, implemented a pilot program called “The Student Locator Project” where RFID tags are put into ID badges so that a student is recorded by the system as present, so long as their tag is within the school property.
Parents received letters which outlined the benefits that the schools are hoping to achieve from implementing this program. For instance, the tags can be used for purchases at the cafeteria, to check out books from the library, and the most highlighted benefit is that a child who is missing from a classroom when attendance is taken, but who is on the school property, at the nurses office for instance, will not be counted as absent. Parents were also advised that the RFID technology will not track outside of the school property.
While the tags do not work to track a student’s whereabouts beyond the walls of the school, some civil liberty advocacy groups are concerned. The Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN), Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse issued a position paper in August. The groups outline three steps which must be taken in order to ensure proper execution of RFID in schools:
- RFID systems proposed must undergo a formal safety, technology, and privacy impact assessment, and schools should not implement RFID systems until this assessment takes place.
- RFID implementation must be guided by Principles of Fair Information Practice.
- Certain uses of RFID should be flatly prohibited.
We have GPS tracking devices on our phones that help families monitor where their family members are at all times, where instant communication and knowledge is the expected practice. RFID takes us one step further in the acceptance of technology tracking. There is less control over who has access to data collected. In the case of the students in San Antonio, this year there is simply a pilot program underway. However, before full scale implementation and adoption by other districts, it seems that there are some big holes in rules and regulations which still need to be evaluated on the use of data from RFID.