Home > Technology > Op-Ed: Should schools monitor students with ‘spychips’ in student IDs?

Op-Ed: Should schools monitor students with ‘spychips’ in student IDs?

September 5, 2012

digitaljournal

Schools have been tracking student attendance for some time,  but the methods of how students are tracked has significantly evolved over the  decades. Currently, using “spychips” in schools appears to be an issue that  keeps emerging its controversial head.

These chips, which integrate RFID technology, are embedded in  student ID cards.

Technology is available as an easy  solution, but is this really the direction society wants to go?

Schools look to “spychips” for  student ID cards

The issue of using RFID technology to  track students has emerged many times over the past several years. Recently, Digital Journal reported a story where  parents and students protestedin San Antonio, Texas after the Northside ISD  school district decided to test pilot RFID student ID cards in two of its  schools.

The student tracking ID card issue in Texas is the latest in a string of debates on this issue. The idea has cropped  up numerous times in the U.S. over the past decade.

Controversy erupted in  2010, after the New Canaan Schools in Connecticut presented an optional RFID  card-based system. Going back even further, in  2005, a California school quietly issued RFID ID cards to its students, and  never said a word until parents complained. In this situation, there were some  other ethical questions involved with the implementation of the program.

When the idea of tracking students  using technology is often met with some opposition, others do not reject the  idea as they see it as a means to know where their children are during the  school day. There is, however, a bigger picture involved than just attendance.

While using RFID technology clearly  offers some benefit to school districts in terms of cost-savings, there are other  considerationsto weigh when it comes to tracking students.

Security is an important component for  schools as they are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring their students  are safe. The question begs asking though, what if kids, as Northside ISD  student Andrea Hernandez pointed out to  the media , circumvent the system?

If so, this negates one, maybe two, of  Northside IDS’s three primary goals which were listed  as 1) Increase student safety and security, 2) Increase attendance and 3)  Provide multi-purpose “Smart” Student ID card.

Will it stop at  attendance?

When tracking attendance through ID  cards in order to provide safety and security, the card scanners aren’t seeking  the actual individual, but scanning the card. So if this type of program isn’t  successful and students manage to skirt the system, what is the next step  RFID-enthused schools will take?

Embedded chips?

Or what happens when the time comes and  administrators see other cost-saving ways databases can be tied together and  track additional student information?

Security vs. privacy once again  come head to head

Today, people are tracked by  governments and businesses in many forms. Usually, as with any other use of  technology, there are tradeoffs with this. Typically security and/or financial  savings are the gain, but the price paid is giving up personal information and  elevated levels of privacy.

As outrageous as it perhaps sounds, as  these practices become more accepted into the norm, it is not a far-fetch to  believe embedded chips are not far behind. After all, the U.S. Food and Drug  Administration had already  approvedthe use of the VeriChip for human use back in 2004.

Is it a far stretch to believe more  updated devices may be approved in the future since that door has been opened?

What about the risks in  tracking students?

Electronic Privacy Information Center  (EPIC) notes the other concerning issues associated with RFID tracking in its  recent Position Paper on the Use of RFID in Schools published  in Aug. 2012. One interesting fact to note is the organization points out a  few different ways using this technology in schools could actually decrease  student security[see section III].

Relying on RFID for security rather than human observation creates  new security risks – EPIC Aug. 2012

Over time, the value of privacy has  significantly eroded. As social media networks continue to encourage an “open  sharing” environment and this overall philosophy spreads across the globe,  people have increasingly become desensitized to privacy. Younger generations  often do not see the concept of privacy in the same light as earlier generations  perceived it. As this trend continues, more invasive practices, such as  chip-tracking of students, will likely become more easily accepted, and at some  point perhaps without question.

But is this really the way anyone wants  society to go? Look at the bigger picture and what this practice teaches our  children. Those same kids will be tomorrow’s leaders.

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