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