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Students Tracked In UK College Via RFID For 1-3 Years

Soulskill posted about 10 months ago | from the they-know-what-you-did-last-summer dept.

Privacy 64

wendyg writes "As part of redeveloping its three-site campus and without consultation with parents or the Information Commissioner, the UK's West Cheshire College installed a highly detailed tracking system using ultrawideband RFID tags handed out to its 14- to 17-year-old students. The system, which cost up approximately £1 million, was abandoned earlier this year because of escalating costs and lack of the functionality the college wanted. The college has been reluctant to answer questions, dubbing privacy campaigner and persistent questioner Pippa King 'vexatious,' and material relating to the trial has been vanishing off the Net. The law requiring parental consent for the use of biometrics in schools (for things like taking attendance and paying for meals) came into force last month. It seems it already needs to be updated."

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no rfid required (2)

kipsate (314423) | about 10 months ago | (#45476675)

No RFID required to track you all day. Cameras everywhere. Carrying a cellphone? Driving a car?

We already know where you are, and where you're going.

Re:no rfid required (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45476747)

They MAYBE can get away with RFID ("blah blah it's not intended for tracking but for keeping records and pay meals blah blah"), but starting facerecognition or intercepting cell-network-information would be a whole new ballpark, this is a College, not the CIA or NSA Campus.

(captcha: antidote? Knowing how cheap most Schools are, i would imagine they used the cheapest solution available. MIFARE Classic, anyone? Would be a damn shame if millions of new "cards" would check in every day, rendering the logs and the entire system useless...)

Re:no rfid required (2)

kipsate (314423) | about 10 months ago | (#45476835)

intercepting cell-network-information

No need. Have wifi turned on? Your phone will dutifully offer its mac-address when you come near the router.

Re:no rfid required (1)

Wookact (2804191) | about 10 months ago | (#45477051)

Change your MAC daily?

Re:no rfid required (1)

djdanlib (732853) | about 10 months ago | (#45478661)

Most schools (and corporations, even) with private networks require you to re-register your adapter when your MAC changes. So it wouldn't really work.

Re:no rfid required (1)

nogginthenog (582552) | about 10 months ago | (#45479841)

Clone someone elses MAC then.

Re:no rfid required (1)

akozakie (633875) | about 10 months ago | (#45477183)

And why would I have WiFi on when I'm not using it? In fact, I can't remember the last time I turned it on on a cellphone. Had it been broken since September, I wouldn't notice.

Re:no rfid required (1)

Builder (103701) | about 10 months ago | (#45481161)

Do you truly consider yourself representative of most users of wireless devices? Do you even believe that you're truly representative of most moderately technical users ?

Re:no rfid required (1)

akozakie (633875) | about 9 months ago | (#45484913)

Did you notice that I was referring to the "No need" part of the sentence? Yes need. Why implement a solution that catches most cellphone owners when you can just as easily implement one that catches every cellphone (well, unless it's off) and has much better coverage? Just because most of us (except the telco specialists among the readers) feel more at home in the TCP/IP world, making WiFi sound easier?

I don't need to be representative of any group. It's enough that I know I'm not alone in this. Want to trace MACs on WiFi? Go ahead. We're invisible.

Re:no rfid required (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45478035)

this is a College

Just FYI, in the UK they use the word "College" in a different way than we do in the US. In this example, we in the US would call this a "High School". In the US you don't attend College until after you complete the 12th grade around age 18.

Re:no rfid required (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45483425)

Ah see I had been mightily confused there. Oh you jaunty brits and your slang.
Oh yeah, on topic, I've seen a concurrent rise in the amount of authority educators are exercising minors and the amount of excessive force used by those who exercise it over adults.

Re:no rfid required (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 10 months ago | (#45476931)

Its about simplicity and cost. Its *far* simpler than tracking via cameras ( especially real-time ) and cheaper than a phone, which is often banned in schools anyway and since they are not school owned like the RFID tags, there might be some legal issues.

RFID is super cheap, reusable, and simple to automate the tracking.

Re:no rfid required (1)

Cantankerous Cur (3435207) | about 10 months ago | (#45477241)

RFID is super cheap, reusable, and simple to automate the tracking.

Well, maybe the tags are, but the systems to do so clearly aren't.

Re:no rfid required (2)

nurb432 (527695) | about 10 months ago | (#45477931)

Sure they are. Unless you are an idiot, with zero budget.

Re: no rfid required (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45482579)

This particular UWB RFID system at the college came in just over £million of public money. As the college revealed in. Freedom of Information reply on 4th Nov 2013 https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/procurement_procedure_regarding#incoming-446369

Re:no rfid required (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 10 months ago | (#45477685)

and easy to defeat. How long do you think it would be before a significant portion of the students would be walking around with their cards in shielded envelopes made of foil? You can even buy he damned things at gas stations now in designer colors.

Re:no rfid required (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 10 months ago | (#45477917)

And when defeated you get in trouble,. In a controlled environment its easy to detect defeated/nonfunctional ones.. you have 10 kids in class but only 8 register on the map...

Re:no rfid required (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 10 months ago | (#45478017)

And when defeated you get in trouble,. In a controlled environment its easy to detect defeated/nonfunctional ones.. you have 10 kids in class but only 8 register on the map...

No, more like a phone call to the parents. "Billy hasn't been in class for a week. Could you provide a parent's release or doctor's note, please?" Even though the name of the place was "College", the ages are high school -- 14-17.

And that is the good reason for the tracking system. Attendance for headcount purposes, and so the attendee can be found easily if the parents call saying "his Mom is in the hospital, can you find him and tell him to come home?" When the parents expect schools to keep track of the kids, they get a little unhappy when the schools don't actually keep track of the kids.

Re: no rfid required (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45478983)

The school has 20000 students on two campuses. I assume they want automated everything to keep track of that mob.

Re: no rfid required (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45478625)

If someone can get into trouble for hiding their signal, that's another argument for why we need even stronger protection in law. (Such as the case here, with students.)

Biometrics? (4, Insightful)

intermodal (534361) | about 10 months ago | (#45476677)

This isn't biometrics. This is RFID.

Re:Biometrics? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 10 months ago | (#45477547)

I believe that was what he was suggesting at the end -- that the new law needs to have RFID added to it.

Re:Biometrics? (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 10 months ago | (#45480763)

While I would tend to agree, the difference between RFID and biometrics is fairly significant in that one can change or not carry an RFID. Biometrics are permanent feature of you. Even if the endgame is similar, the arguments against each in this kind of context are both valid and different in significant ways.

Re:Biometrics? (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 10 months ago | (#45477591)

This isn't biometrics. This is RFID.

This isn't tracking. This is convenience.

Re:Biometrics? (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 10 months ago | (#45480861)

No, this is Patrick.

Put a stop to this shit. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45476693)

Anyone who wants to track anyone else. Must first wear a gps enabled public accessable camera 24-7 for 1 full year.

If after that you STILL think it's a good idea. We shoot you in the head.

We haven't tried this yet. I'm sure it can work.

I prefer spanking (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45476841)

Anyone who wants to track anyone else. Must first wear a gps enabled public accessable camera 24-7 for 1 full year.

If after that you STILL think it's a good idea. We shoot you in the head.

We haven't tried this yet. I'm sure it can work.

I'd rather spank them silly with a hardcover edition of Orwell's '1984' with the Eurythmics playing "1984" [youtube.com] in the background.

Re:Put a stop to this shit. (1)

umghhh (965931) | about 10 months ago | (#45476979)

not sure why people so upset - it is all for our own good

Re:Put a stop to this shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45476991)

Glorious Leader Obummer agrees.

Re:Put a stop to this shit. (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 10 months ago | (#45478141)

It's in the UK. The glorious leader is David Cameron.

Re:Put a stop to this shit. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45478599)

No, he's just Obummer's bitch.

Re:Put a stop to this shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45476999)

Anyone who wants to track anyone else. Must first wear a gps enabled public accessable camera 24-7 for 1 full year.

And yet ironically, I happen to think that the GPS-enabled ankle bracelets often worn by convicted felons on house arrest who earned that bling deserve to wear it.

It's funny how quickly we can spout one-size-fits-all solutions without remembering how shitty that fit usually is, and why our own closets are devoid of it.

Re: Put a stop to this shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45478633)

The felons don't have to wear the ankle bracelets if they don't want to :-)

Re:Put a stop to this shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45478127)

"Must first wear a gps enabled public accessable camera 24-7 for 1 full year."

Wasn't that the iPhone 3S? (Before people got outraged that their locations were being logged).

I like your fail-safe... (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 10 months ago | (#45478363)

If after that you STILL think it's a good idea. We shoot you in the head.

I can't stand these 'privacy is dead' or 'privacy is an anomaly' douchebags...we have whatever privacy that we as consumers/voters demand!

I appreciate the finality and certainty of your joke...we really do need to just tell the 'privacy is dead' people to fuck off and die...or w/e language is appropriate for the context ;)

'fuck off and die'...we geeks need to start drawing lines for what work we'll do...

imagine a world where tracking people for profit is ****TOO EXPENSIVE**** b/c you have to pay too much to get someone who will do it!

Re:I like your fail-safe... (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 10 months ago | (#45478709)

even if the US engineers stopped playing ball with The Man(tm), overseas in india they will not even UNDERSTAND what privacy is, let alone care about it. certainly not care about it over here!

its a lost cause. enough of us are selfish pricks that we only live for our own job and income and care nothing for what is good for Us as a whole. if we cared, you would not find google sitting in so many buildings, fucking us over daily with their attacks on privacy.

engineers will never unionize for the same reasons: we think too highly of ourselves and don't care at all about our community. we think we can make good money based on merit. (ha! just wait until you get beyond the age where they think your shit doesn't smell).

Re:Put a stop to this shit. (1)

jcr (53032) | about 10 months ago | (#45482635)

I like this plan. Especially the last part.

-jcr

Shit sandwich people, OPEN WIDE. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45476695)

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/11/20/second-wave-health-plan-cancellations-looms/

"Second wave of health plan cancellations looms

A new and independent analysis of ObamaCare warns of a ticking time bomb, predicting a second wave of 50 million to 100 million insurance policy cancellations next fall -- right before the mid-term elections.

The next round of cancellations and premium hikes is expected to hit employees, particularly of small businesses. While the administration has tried to downplay the cancellation notices hitting policyholders on the individual market by noting they represent a relatively small fraction of the population, the swath of people who will be affected by the shake-up in employer-sponsored coverage will be much broader. "

That bears repeating "50 million to 100 million insurance policy cancellations" and "the swath of people who will be affected by the shake-up in employer-sponsored coverage will be much broader".

That means YOU are next on the chopping block.

Shit sandwich people, OPEN WIDE.

Re:Shit sandwich people, OPEN WIDE. (1)

LocalH (28506) | about 10 months ago | (#45477003)

Lahey?

Re:Shit sandwich people, OPEN WIDE. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45477163)

There are only 313.9 million Americans.(as of 2012). Your asseveration is a third of the country is going to loose health insurance? Me thinks you and Faux news is full of $hit.

You also forgot to paste this pertinent tidbit:

An analysis by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank

You don't think they may have some ulterior motivation to use scare tactics do you?

Re:Shit sandwich people, OPEN WIDE. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45477439)

Really?

It's not just AEI, try this

http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2013/10/31/obama-officials-in-2010-93-million-americans-will-be-unable-to-keep-their-health-plans-under-obamacare/

Face it drones, they are after you and mean business.

Just get it over with (1)

ememisya (1548255) | about 10 months ago | (#45476725)

Make it mandatory to wear Google Glasses and an EEG. Oh and you're not allowed to turn it off. You know, like cellphones, can't take out the battery either.

Re:Just get it over with (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about 10 months ago | (#45476763)

> You know, like cellphones, can't take out the battery either.

Can't take the battery out of your smart phone? There's a secret way to turn it completely off: (a) Grab the ends of your smartphone firmly. (b) Twist as hard as you can.

The store will assist you in turning your smart phone back on. [1]

[1] "Gee, I don't know what happened. I just found it like that. Maybe it exploded. This is covered under warranty, right?"

Re:Just get it over with (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 10 months ago | (#45476911)

Or, put it in a Faraday pouch [popsci.com]

You get the same CARRIER LOST effect, without putting another handful of blood minerals into a landfill.

Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs (2)

rijrunner (263757) | about 10 months ago | (#45476887)

So.. someone got their hands on the Marauder's Map..

Re: Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 10 months ago | (#45477011)

Any significantly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. - A C Clarke

Training (4, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | about 10 months ago | (#45476905)

Train the next generation to accept it as normal.

Re:Training (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | about 10 months ago | (#45481319)

Carrots and sticks for the next generation will be provided at an undisclosed location.

UK data protection laws make the next step clear (4, Insightful)

Bruce66423 (1678196) | about 10 months ago | (#45476987)

One of the students or their parents needs to submit a request for all the data held about the student by the college; data protection laws in the UK require ANY data holder to provide this in full for £10 ($17). This MUST include a full record of all that was recorded about them by this system. Once that has been obtained, we will know the reality, rather continue to speculate.

Re:UK data protection laws make the next step clea (2)

Inda (580031) | about 10 months ago | (#45479739)

Yep, it's called a Subject Access Request (SAR) and can be used to belt companies over the head. Every UK company claims to follow the Data Protection Act and has certificates plastered in their receptions to show how great they are, but I've yet to find a company that follows the law.

Here's a good tool: send your SAR and wait for the reply. 99% of the time, they will not include the letter you sent them requesting the SAR. This is one piece of documentation you know without doubt they have in their posession. Beat them over the head for failing to comply. Small claims court - arbitration these days - can then be used as the next beating tool.

Have fun.

Re: UK data protection laws make the next step cle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45482629)

Good point. Here is the video if the data they were capturing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gURgaf9x26w
very much like the Marauders Map!

The who? (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about 10 months ago | (#45476995)

Does anyone else find the title "Information Commissioner" Orwellian in itself?

Re:The who? (1)

NoMaster (142776) | about 10 months ago | (#45477833)

About as Orwellian as "Homeland Security". The difference is that no-one in the UK has ever made thinly-veiled propaganda^w^w TV shows promoting the good, necessary, and important work of the honest folk who are just doing their jobs working for the Information Comissioner...

Re:The who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45478099)

Australia's latest one for treating refugees like shit is: Operation Sovereign Borders.

That is so chillingly NOT what it means (the same as people calling themselves 'Liberal' or countries calling themselves 'Democratic Republic of X') that I'm sure someone did it on purpose as a fuck-you to people who aren't racist.

Privacy Aside (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about 10 months ago | (#45477159)

Not all individual tracking is evil. If they were forced into the system, or they violated privacy laws, then reprimand appropriately and move on.

Traffic has a similar problem. With simple traffic flow measuring, you see that exit 220 was high volume and too crowded, so you expand it. If you had tracked cars end-to-end, you'd have seen that the real bottleneck was the absurdly bad exit 219, which nobody used, since 220 was, albeit slow, still better than taking exit 219.

You can likely simulate student moments from class to class, department to department, and building to building since you know their schedules (must walk from the McKinley building to the Grant building in 10 minutes on Wednesdays at 1:20pm), but figuring out when individual students from individual classes go on their breaks and schedule gaps is a challenge akin to the exit 220 issue, and if you're genuinely interested in planning your new buildings in a way that don't hamper an already busy campus, you track individual movements.

Let tinfoil types opt out.

...or just track their phone's MAC surreptitiously. :)

Re:Privacy Aside (0)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 10 months ago | (#45477423)

Actually, it is illegal.

It is illegal to do it in the EU and it's illegal to do it in Canada and it's illegal to do it in Washington State.

In the latter two, due to their Constitutions.

Constitutions have a greater force of law than any excuses or permissions, in that they are inviolate.

Britain deposed a King over this and the Barons forced him to stop such actions.

Re:Privacy Aside (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 10 months ago | (#45477529)

Actually, it is illegal.

It is illegal to do it in the EU and it's illegal to do it in Canada and it's illegal to do it in Washington State.

Excellent. Punish them as the law allows and move on.

Let them take volunteers who drop off their trackers when they're done with them at the end of the day next time...

Re:Privacy Aside (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 10 months ago | (#45477695)

Actually, it is illegal.

It is illegal to do it in the EU and it's illegal to do it in Canada and it's illegal to do it in Washington State.

Excellent. Punish them as the law allows and move on.

Let them take volunteers who drop off their trackers when they're done with them at the end of the day next time...

You're confusing a Constitutional Right with a Legal Penalty.

Lot's of things are illegal, but are unpunished.

Re:Privacy Aside (1)

abies (607076) | about 10 months ago | (#45479725)

Based on data gathered from RFID tracing in our college, we will start coeducational toilets, because of high frequency of male-female pairs being close together in one of existing, gender-separate ones.

Its is just Potter's map (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45477707)

Don't be silly

Mental picture (2)

PPH (736903) | about 10 months ago | (#45478413)

Steve Irwin, slowly sneaking up on a student with net, tranquilizer gun and tracking device.

"Crikey! These can be meaner than a crocodile if you corner them outside of homeroom."

14-17 year old college students? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45480315)

What kind of college has students that are 14 - 17 years old?

Re:14-17 year old college students? (1)

Krenair (2501522) | about 9 months ago | (#45484945)

UK ones. Colleges are NOT necessarily universities.

So let me get this straight... (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | about 10 months ago | (#45481303)

A group at a college wants total access to track everything about students, spending undisclosed funds with undisclosed backers for undisclosed reasons, and they can't actually share the results because it is sensitive? And that's on top of a vague goal as to what this would accomplish.

Well, at least there is some consistency to this fascist trend.

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