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Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Cédric Laurant
EPIC Policy Counsel - 202-483-1140 ext. 114

Privacy Rights Are At Risk

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

Mandatory Student ID Cards Contain RFIDs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Parents in a northern California public school district and civil liberties groups are urging a school district to terminate the mandatory use of Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFIDs) by students. A letter was sent today expressing alarm at the Brittan School District’s use of mandatory ID badges that include a RFID device that tracks the students’ movements. The device transmits private information to a computer on campus whenever a student passes under one of the scanners. The ID badges also include the student’s name, photo, grade, school name, class year and the four-digit school ID number. Students are required to prominently display the badges by wearing them around the neck at all times.

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

Jeffrey and Michele Tatro, parents of a thirteen-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.”

In a letter dated February 7, sent to the Brittan Board of Trustees, the civil liberties group “urge the school board to recognize the serious safety and civil liberties implications” and call the for the School Board to “terminate this ill-advised test immediately.” The ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sent the letter.

“The monitoring of children with RFID tags is comparable to the tracking of cattle, shipment pallets, or very dangerous criminals in high-security prisons. Compelling children to be constantly tracked with RFID-trackable 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,” said Cédric Laurant, Policy Counsel with EPIC.

“We are sending the letter today because a school board meeting is scheduled for tomorrow night and we want to make sure that the District reconsiders the issue,” said Nicole Ozer, Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director of the ACLU-NC. “RFID technology is inappropriate for use in schools. The badges jeopardize the safety and security of children by broadcasting identity and location information to anyone with a chip reader and subjects students to demeaning tracking of their movements.”

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


* Click here for a copy of the letter sent by the ACLU-NC, EFF, and EPIC
* Click here for a copy of the complaint filed by Michael and Dawn Cantrall, parents of a seventh grader attending Brittan Elementary School in Sutter, California