Opinions about RFID have long been controversial, but no more so than when a Texas school tried to suspend a girl for refusing to wear a student ID card embedded with an RFID chip. By forcing students to hang the ID card around their necks and to keep it visible at all times, the school claims it is guaranteed proof of class attendance or absence. Sophomore Andrea Hernandez said, "I feel it's an invasion of my religious beliefs. I feel it's the implementation of the Mark of the Beast. It's also an invasion of my privacy and my other rights."
The newest hearing about the tracking chips was canceled. According to WOIA, San Antonio's Northside Independent School District issued this statement:
Since the Jay High School student and her father are alleging a violation of the student's federal constitutional rights, Northside ISD asked that the case be heard in federal court. The case scheduled to be heard today in State court has been canceled and now will rest with a Federal judge to make a ruling. Neither a judge nor a date for a federal hearing has been set.
NISD acknowledged the family's objection based on religious grounds and offered the student a Student ID Card without the RFID technology. The student and family refused the exception.
The Rutherford Institute, which is part of Hernandez's legal defense, reported: “I think it’s unfortunate that these school officials are determined to continue to violate Andrea Hernandez’ constitutional rights, but their actions clearly show that what is motivating them has little to do with their students’ best interests and everything to do with fattening their coffers.” John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, added, “At stake in this case are core constitutional values: the freedom of religion, the right to privacy, and the right to be treated fairly in our society.”
The Huffington Post noted, "How often do you see an issue where the ACLU and Christian fundamentalists come together? It's unusual," said Chris Steinbach, the chief of staff for a Republican state lawmaker who has filed a bill to outlaw the technology in Texas schools.
Supposedly these ID cards are student locators. Caffeinated Thoughts reported, "All students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School are required to carry identification cards embedded with a microchip." The Rutherford Institute previously explained:
As part of the pilot program, roughly 4,200 students at Jay High School and Jones Middle School are being required to wear "SmartID" card badges embedded with an RFID tracking chip which will actively broadcast a signal at all times. Although the schools already boast 290 surveillance cameras, the cards will make it possible for school officials to track students' whereabouts at all times. School officials hope to expand the program to the district's 112 schools, with a student population of 100,000. Although implementation of the system will cost $500,000, school administrators are hoping that if the school district is able to increase attendance by tracking the students' whereabouts, they will be rewarded with up to $1.7 million from the state government.
Techdirt reported that the school claims it is a safety issue; yet the school is allegedly only after the money. In fact, "despite all the talk about 'safety,' the school district was more than happy to undercut the entire stated purpose of the Smart ID in order to keep Hernandez and her family from speaking out against the program."
Wired UK wrote that Anonymous attacked the website of San Antonio's Northside Independent School District. "I sincerely hope you have noticed that I have took [sic] down your website for a reason, and that reason is stripping away the privacy of students in your school. What was going through your mind when you had this idea?" wrote tr1xxyAnon, an alleged member of the hacking collective Anonymous. "These 'student locator' programs are ultimately aimed at getting students used to living in a total surveillance state where there will be no privacy, and wherever you go and whatever you text or email will be watched by the government."
Right before Hurricane Sandy battered the east coast, Radiant RFID, a company which just so happens to also offer an RIFD Student Accountability Solution, was also awarded a five-year RFID-based managed evacuation solution by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. Radiant is to use RFID to track "evacuees, pets, emergency transport vehicles and commodities deployed at state shelters in preparation for and in the event of a hurricane, natural disaster or other incident to assist in reunification of families." The press release added, "Along with the 8.8 million residents of New Jersey, Radiant RFID's solution covers the State of Texas, State of South Carolina, and City of Boston - approximately 18 percent of the United States population."
After asking if Radiant's RFID contract tracking solution was used during Hurricane Sandy, and any stats about the success of its use, Radiant's Annelyse Burt replied, "Thank you for your request but we cannot give this king of information." I'm sure she meant kind, but it might be a key to the RFID kingdom to know this.
While we're talking about forced tracking of humans, The Raw Story reported, "Women in Saudi Arabia are now monitored by an electronic system that tracks any cross-border movements." Regardless of cultural differences, humans are not livestock or slaves to be tracked.
For good or for bad, RFID is helping to bring about the future and the Internet of Things. Yet when anyone, a school or a government or even an employer, starts insisting that you must have an RFID band to be tracked, then it is potentially a worrisome time. If they talk about embedding RFID or GPS solutions into humans, then some Christians would truly freak out regarding the Mark of the Beast. Could you blame them? Christians or not, there are serious privacy implications when forcing anyone to be actively tracked.
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Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. Smith has a diverse background in information technology, programming, web development, IT consulting, and information security. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.
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