San Francisco - The Sutter-based company InCom announced last night, at a packed special school district meeting, that it would end its pilot program that required students to wear radio frequency identification badges that tracked the student's movements. The company pulled out when parents and civil liberties groups mobilized to end the program. On February 7, the ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sent a letter to the school district urging the school officials to end the program after being contacted by the parents.
"We are pleased that InCom is pulling out -our children never should have been tagged like pieces of inventory or cattle," said Michele Tatro, one of the parents that fought to end the tracking program. "The RFID tags violated the student's privacy, they were demeaning, and it put them in danger."
"Monitoring children with RFID tags is a very bad idea. It treats children like livestock or shipment pallets, thereby breaching their right to dignity and privacy they have as human beings. Any small gain in administrative efficiency and security is not worth the money spent and the privacy and dignity lost," said Cédric Laurant, Policy Counsel with EPIC.
Dawn Cantrall, parent of a 7th grader added: "We are proud that we stopped it here in Sutter and we will continue to fight to make sure that no child is ever forced to have an RFID badge. As parents, it is our duty to keep our children safe and it is not safe to have tracking devices in student badges."
"This is a tremendous victory for the students and families of Sutter," said Nicole Ozer, Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director of the ACLU-NC. "However, this is not just an issue affecting school children. The potential use of RFIDs in other identity documents, such as driver's licenses and medical cards, should be of concern to all Californians. RFIDs in identity documents is an issue that requires a statewide response and we plan to encourage legislative action on this front," she added.
"We're happy for the kids in Sutter, and grateful to those parents who stood up for family privacy and security. We hope it will be a wake-up call to parents and kids across the nation," said Lee Tien of EFF.
The tracking program was introduced on January 18th without any notification to the parents. Students in the small farm town of Sutter were required to wear ID cards around their necks with their picture, name, grade, school name, class year and four-digit school ID number and the RFID tags. Parents only found out about the program when their children came home wearing the tracking devices.