"Far Out"… of Compliance

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Jamie Lewis has caught a good one here:

According to this story on SFGate.com, the Brittan School District — a small district in California — in January began requiring all students to wear RFID-enabled badges that monitor their whereabouts on campus. The district has 587 kindergarten through eighth-graders who now have the privilege of being “the first public school kids in the country to be tracked on campus by such a system.” The story says the system “is designed to ease attendance taking and increase campus security.” The school district did this without involving the parents, many of whom are now raising a ruckus. How many ways does this system violate Kim's laws of identity?

It's strange – I was just catching up on RFID progress myself… But this is a really nutso development. Do you think one day products will need to carry a tag that says ‘Compliant with the laws of identity’? That would sure cut down on embarassing public pronouncements.

Of course, we know that the reaction of the outraged parents was totally predictable through the first law of identity (which states that people will tend to reject identity systems which do not obtain consent about the release of identity information). There has so far been no explicit reaction to the improper use of omnidirectional identifiers (an equal or worse offense in Identity Court), but that seems to be because criminals have just begun to take advantage of the technology. Those of us who think about this know it is only a matter of time before we witness some very bad outcomes.

“It's baffling why so many people are bothered by the district being able to tell them where their kids are at,” said Tim Crabtree, a high school teacher who said he hoped the technology would come to his classroom.

I like the word ‘baffling’ as used here.

Seven classrooms were equipped with the readers, as were two bathrooms. The bathroom readers were never turned on, according to school and company officials, and were removed Wednesday by InCom because of objections by parents.

Yes, bathrooms are very important. Of course administrators often fit them with sensors and never turn them on.

InCom has also disabled its system and deleted data it has collected to date. Readers have been turned off until the board reaches a decision next week.

I can hardly wait to see what the outcome will be. The RF readers have been turned off – but not the tracking badges themselves, which I assume continue to emit omnidirectional “public” identifiers when queried.

Developers of the system say parents concerned over privacy violations don't understand the short range of radio frequency identification devices.

“The tags physically can't be read from a long distance,” said Doug Ahlers, an InCom partner.

I wonder what distance the developers are quoting. It wouldn't be 15 feet by any chance, would it? Seems like not many people follow radio technology and advanced antenna design these days.

I would like to brainstorm with the InCom partners about what could be done to bring their system into compliance with the laws of identity. If anyone knows them, why not introduce us?

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Kim Cameron

Work on identity.