Someone came to this site asking for "how does rfid work in schools" and I will attempt to answer.
First of all, RFID - Radio Frequency ID - is a generic name for a technology with many practical, legitimate applications. A lot of people are already carrying RFID tagged cards in their wallet without thinking twice about it: contactless access badges for offices are examples, as are the London Underground's Oyster cards.
One of the issues that are causing a lot of concern among privacy groups is the lack of access control to the contents of the cards. E.g. it is not illegal to purchase / build a card reader and start reading passing tags' contents. Even if the tags only tell you "I'm an ID card for company 7543 and my card number is 345678998433", this information can be stored and retrieved for example to identify returning customers, then used for marketing / data mining (for good and for bad: "every day badge 13456789765 has been to the store, we've had items missing" etc).
Basically, tagging people (physically or by making them carry tagged items) results in less privacy and opens up for a host of creative ways of abusing the information the tags announce about themselves.
Recently, there has been some prototype trials on using RFID to track students' attendance and whereabouts. The purposes have been soi-disant attendance tracking, but of course, potential side effects are many and hence the trial has now been stopped...
Here's how the InClass system works: A unique 15-digit ID number is written to each tag and associated with the name of the student to whom it is issued. As the students pass through the reader-generated interrogation field under a doorway, the reader sends the tags' unique ID numbers to a central server. InCom has developed a software program, installed on the server, that collects the tag data and uploads a list of present, absent and tardy (based on when they enter the classroom) students to a PDA that is issued to the teacher. The upload is done wirelessly over an 802.11b Wi-Fi protocol. The teacher can then perform a visual check on the InClass-generated attendance list by scanning the room to reconcile what the list says with what she sees in the classroom. Once confirmed, the list is submitted wirelessly via the same PDA to school administrators, who are required to file attendance records to a state board of education.
Anders Jacobsen |
[weblog / photography]