Friday, May 25, 2012

The Growing Police State: Wait, Not This Time Edition

In Bexar County, Texas (for those unfamiliar: that's where San Antonio is), the Northside ISD is implementing a pilot program at one of their High Schools to add an RFID tag to student ID cards, and use that to track attendance.

Now, I'm normally a huge fan of privacy and a huge opponent of any kind of "official" snooping by a government agency.  When I read about this, I expected to be highly offended, but I'm not.

Let me explain.

I have no problem with an employer doing exactly this thing.  I know the limitations of RFID, so I know there's really only so much knowledge they can gain.  So if my employer were to implement something exactly like this, I would have no problem with it.

So, as far as being on school grounds, I have no problem with students being "tracked," that is, as much as an RFID allows your movements to be tracked (that is: not a lot).

What about privacy, though?  Well, what about it.  If they went all out and had RFID scanners in every classroom, bathroom, office, and so forth, all they'd really know is that the ID with RFID Tag such-and-such was in room such-and-so at whatever-time.  And it's unlikely they'd spend that kind of money.  It's far more likely that they'd have scanners at the entrances to log when a student entered or left the building.  And I fully agree that they should get to know and log that information.  I'll go further, if they wanted to implement a joined system that allowed them to use video as well- so they could make sure the right student had the right ID, or notice when someone without an ID entered campus, for instance, I'd be fine with that, too.  The school building is "public" in that it's owned by local government (the School District), but it's really a restricted use building, and I'm okay with that.

Outside of school, the IDs would have no effect.  Or, rather, if you were concerned about them having an effect you could simply leave the card at home while you went off to do whatever.  So their ability to "track" you outside of school is virtually nil.

So, why am I blogging about this then?  I hate the growth of the police state.  I think that's clear from my posts.  So, when an item like this gets my attention, I feel it's necessary- to provide the proper balance- to note when something that could be seen as "intrusive" really isn't.


  1. I disagree.

    Public schools are a service provided to the public and paid for by tax receipts. If parents want to ensure their children's attendance at school, there are other, less intrusive means. The coercive power of the state is inappropriate in this case. It is not the function of the state to mandate attendance.

    1. In what way does this ensure children's attendance at school. As I pointed out, with RFID, it's not like they can tell where you are if you're not in the school. It's not some GPS beacon. All it is capable of doing is verifying whether a child is in school- and even then imperfectly (as it would be easy to leave your ID card at home).

      Additionally, the State does mandate attendance. If you want to have a discussion about whether that's right or wrong, that's a different debate (note: I tend to err on the side of Parental Control). However, given that schooling is mandated in some form, even then- at least in Texas (where this story is) schooling is mandated- but public schooling is not. You have the option of private school or home school. You also have options of what school within a district you want to attend (with some limitations) and the option of attending a school outside your district.

      I simply do not see how this is intrusive at all.