Jeff Nelson, CPA
In 1759, Benjamin Franklin penned the words; “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” These words are just as true today as they were when they were penned over 200 years ago. This quote rang in my ears when my son was sent home with an RFID Z-pass from the Lyman Elementary School. These tags were first supplied to my youngest child under the guise that their ability to ride the bus was threatened if they didn’t carry this tracking device on their backpacks. Upon speaking with the person who was implementing the program, I was told that my older children would have to carry an RFID pass as well in order to play any sports or join extracurricular activities where the riding on a bus was required. I was at first dismayed that there was no permission slip or parent authorization forms about this new program, and very disturbed that anybody thought they had the right to place a tracking device on my children without my consent. I decided to do some research on the RFID technology to determine if this was a program that I wanted my children to participate in, and if indeed my children would be safer with this technology. The purported benefits of the Z-pass were that it would track whenever a child entered and left the bus. This information would help ascertain where a child was last dropped off, should the child show up missing. Sounds pretty benign to this point, however, not all is good when it comes to this technology.
First, the RFID chips that are in the Z-Pass do not have an off switch. This tracking device, though passive in nature, can be read by any reader from distances up to 69 feet with current technology. This distance will probably lengthen as better technology becomes available. Thus, my child can be tracked by anybody who purchases a $40 reader off of eBay. For example, if your child was at an overnight sports event, anybody with a reader could determine which hotel room your child was in. More scary than this, in my opinion is that is teaches our children that they don’t have a right to privacy and gets children accustomed to the idea of being under constant surveillance, like people in prison. My two oldest children in high school have been required to read a book by George Orwell entitled “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” This book discusses what a constant surveillance state is like and I recommend parents, teachers and school board members read it. While, I do not believe that the school board members or the bus manager have anything but good intentions with the use of this technology, I do not believe that it makes our children any safer. In fact, I believe that it does more harm than good, similar to a gun free zone, it is false security. It is training our children that they can check in their constitutional rights at the threshold of the school bus. For the complete article see the 01-18-2013 issue.
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