November 16, 2004

Big Brother is Watching You

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According to this NYT article the RFID tagging of students has begun... Oh it is with the absolute BEST of intentions. After all who wouldn't want to prevent a child from being kidnapped or lost? This new technology must be the thing to do... right? Sorry - for my money and peace of mind - it's very very wrong!

The Spring Independent School District is equipping 28,000 students with ID badges containing computer chips that are read when the students get on and off school buses. The information is fed automatically by wireless phone to the police and school administrators.

This system - as you can see - is absolutely dependent on an ID tag. What are the chances that on any given day - at least 1/3 to 1/2 the students forget their tag. What if they swap? What if they lose it? Damage it? What about signal jammers? Not to mention - what if they are kidnapped between the time they get off the bus and the time they walk in the door at home or even when they get off the bus at school and walk into the building? I know that's pushing it a bit... but problems abound when you want technology to take over where humans should be the real supervision.

Just to start up this system cost them $180,000!!! I promise this is a money pit that will grow larger. There will be calls for better tagging systems, better tracking systems. Yada, Yada, Yada. When was the last time you remember any type of computer system NOT being perceived as obsolete within 18 months?

But on the morning Felipe and Christopher shared a seat on bus No. 38, the district experienced one of the early technology hiccups. When the bus arrived at school, the system had not worked. On the Web site that includes the log of student movements, there was no record that any of the students on the bus had arrived.

And yes there is the very real error factor. Equipment failure, programming failure, you name it - it can and will happen. Especially with a system under heavy use. Then what? Maybe no one knows about the failure immediately - so a certain safety factor is assumed. If, as they say, they are doing this to avoid kidnappings (the probability of which is so small as to be vanishing) then, what is to prevent a savvy kidnapper from manipulating the system and making off with the victim during the down time?

Then - as some of the teens note - there is yet another problem...

"It's too Big Brother for me," said Kenneth Haines, a 15-year-old ninth grader. "Something about the school wanting to know the exact place and time makes me feel kind of like an animal."

I have to agree with the student in this case. I was never a kid who got into trouble and yet I would have HATED being tracked everywhere! There is a creepiness to it that I can't shake.

For right now, the schools say they only want to use it to make sure the students are safe... but as with all technology - it can and will be used for other things as time goes on. It happens every time.... The rumor is that students are congregating to watch drag races... this is dangerous... use the tags, see if you can find them. Then on to watching what large numbers of students do - outside of school time - so we can keep a better eye on them. And it just deteriorates from there. Do kids under 18 have a right to privacy? At what age? How much intruding is too much?

Advocates of the technology said they did not plan to go that far. But, they said, they do see broader possibilities, such as implanting RFID tags under the skin of children to avoid problems with lost or forgotten tags. More immediately, they said, they could see using the technology to track whether students attend individual classes.

Yes, they are already starting to see the tracking possiblities and better yet - stick the darn thing under the skin so they can't get rid of it! How easy is that!!! Skin implantation brings up another problem - the medical problem. What is the long term consequence of having an implanted RFID from childhood? What about kids who can't tolerate the implant? How long will it last? What happens if it breaks? And on and on and on and on...

In the end - it comes down to people wanting a machine to take over for them and make their life easier. Unfortunately, there is always the "law of unintended consequences" and in this case I think it strongly applies. This is nothing but trouble waiting to happen. And the community that was trying to avoid a kidnapping - may end up instigating one because now some idiot finds it a challenge.

Oh and don't forget that where kids lead - adults are soon to follow. Get ready for them to hand you your very own RFID so your movements can be tracked too - after all - if you aren't a criminal and have no criminal intent - what could possibly be the problem.... Don't look now, but big brother is watching you...

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 05:45 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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November 09, 2004

Ha - Got One!

A Nigerian E-mail scammer has been sentenced to more than 5 years in prison in Sydney.

Acting Judge Barry Mahoney today sentenced the disability pensioner to a maximum of five years and three months in jail, with a non-parole period of four years and four months.

He said the fraud scheme was complicated and devious and caused great inconvenience to all victims.

Who the hell cares about the fraud scheme?! I'm just glad we'll have one less spammer out there clogging our inboxes. As for this guy - he better not tell any of the inmates why he's in prison... he may never get out.

Via Slashdot

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 12:50 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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