Parents and Civil Liberties Groups Urge Northern California School District to Terminate Use of Tracking Devices

February 7, 2005 12:00 am

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RFIDs in Mandatory Student ID Badges Violate Privacy Rights, Groups Charge

SAN FRANCISCO – Parents in a northern California public school district and civil liberties groups are urging the district to terminate the use of Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFIDs) in mandatory ID badges that track students’ movements.

In a letter sent today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center called on the Brittan School District to immediately end the use of RFIDs in student IDs. According to the groups, the RFID device transmits private information to a computer on campus whenever a student passes under one of the scanners. The ID badges, which students are required to wear around their necks at all times, also include the student’s name, photo, grade, school name, class year and the four-digit school ID number.

“Forcing our child to be tracked with a RFID device — without our consent or knowledge — is a complete invasion of our privacy,” parents Michael and Dawn Cantrall said in a statement. The couple filed a formal complaint against the Brittan Elementary School Board in Sutter, California on January 30 after meeting with several school officials. “Our 7th grader came home wearing the ID badge prominently displayed around her neck – if someone wants to harm her, the mandatory school ID card has just made that task easier.”

Jeffrey and Michele Tatro, parents of a 13-year-old student at Brittan Elementary School, added: “It is our goal that no child in the United States be tagged or tracked. We want it to be stopped here, in Sutter, California, and we don’t want any child to be tracked anywhere. Our children are not pieces of inventory.”

The civil liberties groups sent the letter in advance of a school board meeting scheduled for tomorrow night.

“We are urging the school board to recognize the important civil liberties concerns and safety risks implicated in RFID technology,” said Nicole Ozer, Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director of the ACLU of Northern California. “RFID badges jeopardize the safety and security of children by broadcasting identity and location information to anyone with a chip reader and subject students to demeaning tracking of their movements. We hope the school district reconsiders this serious issue.”

“The monitoring of children with RFID tags is comparable to the tracking of cattle, shipment pallets, or very dangerous criminals in high-security prisons,” said Cédric Laurant, Policy Counsel with EPIC. “Compelling children to be constantly tracked with RFID-enabled identity badges breaches their right to privacy and dignity as human beings. Forcing children to wear badges around their necks displaying such sensitive information as their name, picture, grade and school exposes them to potential discrimination since the name of their school may disclose their religious beliefs or social class.”

Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, added, “It is dehumanizing to force these children to wear RFIDs, and their parents are rightfully outraged. We are doing everything we can to support the parents in this fight to protect student privacy.”

For a copy of the letter sent by the civil liberties groups, go to:

For a copy of the complaint filed by Michael and Dawn Cantrall, go to:

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