August 30, 2010 | By Rebecca Jeschke

Reading, Writing, and RFID Chips: A Scary Back-to-School Future in California

Scary news from California's Contra Costa County — school officials there have reportedly decided to track some preschoolers with RFID chips, thanks to a federal grant supplying the funding.

According to a story from the Associated Press, the students will wear a jersey at school that has the RFID tag attached. The tag will track the children's movements and collect other data, like if the child has eaten or not. According to a Contra Costa County official, this is a cost-savings move, as teachers used to have to manually keep track of a child's attendance and meal schedule.

But of course, an RFID chip allows for far more than that minimal record-keeping. Instead, it provides the potential for nearly constant monitoring of a child's physical location. If readings are taken often enough, you could create an extraordinarily detailed portrait of a child's school day — one that's easy to imagine being misused, particularly as the chips substitute for direct adult monitoring and judgment. If RFID records show a child moving around a lot, could she be tagged as hyper-active? If he doesn't move around a lot, could he get a reputation for laziness? How long will this data and the conclusions rightly or wrongly drawn from it be stored in these children's school records? Can parents opt-out of this invasive tracking? How many other federal grants are underwriting programs like these?

These are questions that desperately need answers. California is in the middle of a terrible budget crunch, but the solution is not federally funded surveillance of children who are too young to understand the implications.

Deeplinks Topics

Stay in Touch

NSA Spying

EFF is leading the fight against the NSA's illegal mass surveillance program. Learn more about what the program is, how it works, and what you can do.

Follow EFF

Backdoors have been discovered in Arris cable modems. This is why we need a security research exemption to the DMCA.

Nov 27 @ 2:15pm

Censorship powers, data retention, and vague hacking crimes: Pakistan's terrible cybercrime bill has it all:

Nov 25 @ 5:11pm

While Bangladesh blocks social messaging apps, locals are turning to Tor and Twitter:

Nov 25 @ 3:50pm
JavaScript license information