Your Liberty: Think of the children's privacy

Phil Gengler
2005-02-25 00:00:00

How would you like it if you were tracked everywhere you went at Stevens? For students in the Brittan school district in California, this was a reality. Each student was required to carry a radio frequency identification (RFID) badge that could be used to track his or her movements.

The program was designed to ensure that all students were accounted for by providing school officials with an easy way to tell if a student was missing. It would then be easier to tell which students were cutting class, or perhaps even tell if a student had been kidnapped.

The program generated an intense backlash from parents, who felt that the tracking represented an unwarranted intrusion into the civil liberties of the children. It also prompted action from the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

The protests resulted in the school district disabling readers in the school's bathrooms; a measure the district must have felt was a compromise.

The program ended when InCom, the company providing the RFID tags and readers, abruptly ended its participation. InCom was actually paying the school for its participation, in the hopes that the company could sell the technology to other schools.

This casts doubt on the true intentions of those behind the program, such as principal Earnie Graham. Rather than acknowledge that students might actually be concerned about their privacy, he said, "I believe junior high students want to be stylish. This is not stylish." What about all the parents who were upset? Are they only concerned that their children do not look "stylish" anymore, Mr. Graham?

Assaults on our civil liberties do not only come from the federal government; state and local governments are perfectly capable of them as well, which I think this case shows. This was a blatant attempt to increase government surveillance of its citizens.

The fact that this was done 'in the name of the children' is disgusting. By requiring attendance at schools, and then requiring students to submit to being tracked, the government is, intentionally or not, making an impression on the children's minds.

It may not be the goal of the Brittan school district to raise a generation of children less adverse to being tracked, but that is the effect of policies such as this. It is a step closer to a totalitarian state, where the government knows everything about everyone, including where they are at any time. This is downright un-American, and we must not let it happen.