Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Computer Chips for Some Middletown Bus Students

***UPDATE: Projo's Meaghan Wims has an article. The schools spent some time investigating this project & are confident that student identities are protected. The pilot project is a go. Be assured that you & your child's civil liberties are in good hands all-around.

**UPDATE: Not for Nothin blog reports that the ACLU has sent a letter to Middletown Schools complaining about this program. Their arguments are exactly the same that I raised. And I'm not even a legal eagle. The sole purpose for this program seems to be to try it out for this new business. And the aim is good reviews from the town to use for promotion. I'm not sure how/if the town benefits at all, except that it's new & free for a short time.

The Middletown School Dept. is piloting a program from a new company,MAP Information Tech Corp. out of Lincoln. This is the business' first customer- it was formed in August of last year by Christopher J. Collins, the bro of the school facitilies director- Edward Collins. Chris left his job at G-Tech to start this business (I found no web site).
Two busses holding students from Aquidneck School (appx. 80) will be outfitted with luggage tag sized i.d.'s that transmit location information available to the school dept. The stats will be used to monitor students/busses.


Schools Supt. Rosemarie K. Kraeger said: “From the School Department side, we were interested in not only knowing where our students are, but also we’re concerned with efficiency...” (Link)
“We’ve tried to design a system that’s as non-intrusive as possible,” Collins said when asked if the system presents any concerns about students’ privacy. “It’s designed for younger students. It’s not designed to keep tabs on your children, it’s designed to make sure they are safe.” (Link)

Semantics aside, do you want this invasion of privacy on your student's backpack? Should you have any choice? This system is also available from other vendors for your pets (under the skin). In the future, parents MAY be able to access the student data yourself, but not presently.
These kinds of systems are being initiated all over the country in the name of safety. But what about hackers? What kind of info do they have/keep/share? Do you want your kids with computer chips in the name of bus safety & efficiency? Especially in a system which has had a minimum of problems. Also make note that these systems are expensive & don't educate your kids one bit- this trail period is free. Would I want it on my kid? No. Suppose it fails or is in error? Are all others, including the student & guardian, then absolved from any supervision? What say you? What do your students say, especially the older ones. Does it matter?

A school in Sutter, Calif. forced the stoppage of a similar program citing concerns that the students were being monitored like "cattle" or "oranges" & some with religious concerns that their children were being "marked."

Some school systems have been using this technology more aggressively- for attendance, library cards, etc. Others even have the system connected with the police departments.


The ACLU has concerns. It is "naïve to believe all this data will only be used to track children in the extremely unlikely event of the rare kidnapping by a stranger," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the technology and liberty program at the A.C.L.U. Mr. Steinhardt said schools, once they had invested in the technology, could feel impelled to get a greater return on investment by putting it to other uses, like tracking where students go after school. (Link)
Exaggeration? School system advocates of this technology did view placing these "pet" tags under the students' skin for habitual "forgetters" or "loosers." I beg your pardon? Ah, Big Bro is here & has been for awhile. How many of your privacy rights are you willing to give up fooling yourself that you become safer, not just more monitored & tracked? At the very least, shouldn't it be up for discussion?
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