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RFID rumpus

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Parent protests have forced the scrapping of an RFID tagging scheme at an elementary school in California. The firm behind the technology decided to pull the plug after parents and the American Civil Liberties Union expressed health and privacy concerns over the deployment, CNET reports.

The school in Sutter, north of Sacramento, issued 160 seventh and eighth-graders with RFID badges a month ago as part of its "wireless attendance program." Kids wore the badges around their necks and scanned them when they entered the classroom. The school reckoned that the scheme would "reduce attendance tracking errors and be a timesaver for teachers and administrators".

Parents disagreed, and their vociferous protests against the tags attracted media attention which in turn provoked the company behind the program - InCom - to beat a hasty retreat. Privacy groups also weighed into the debate, with Electronic Privacy Information Center spokesman Cedric Laurant declaring: "Monitoring children with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags is a very bad idea. It treats children like livestock or shipment pallets, thereby breaching their right to dignity and privacy they have as human beings. Any small gain in administrative efficiency and security is not worth the money spent and the privacy and dignity lost."

The issue of money raised a few eyebrows among critics of the tagging. The school had a profit-sharing deal with locally-based InCom by which it hoped to earn cash from the sale of the technology to other schools. As part of the arrangement, InCom supplied the Sutter school with free kit. ®

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