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Friday, November 19, 2004

Tracking students with tech

Whether they're mere photo IDs students wear, fancy ones with computer chips, or digital IDs to plug into computers, tracking students is a growing phenomenon - as well as public debate. In Poplar Bluff in southeastern Missouri, many of the 1,300 students in that town's high school are upset about having to wear ID cards to school every day, and there isn't even any technology involved, the Christian Science Monitor reports. In Spring, Texas, north of Houston, the school system has spent $180,000 on a system of computerized ID badges for 28,000 students whose badges are scanned when they got on and off schoolbuses. "The information is fed automatically by wireless phone to the police and school administrators," the New York Times reports. And with the help of AOL and VeriSign, an Internet safety organization called i-Safe plans nationwide distribution to schools of small plastic "sticks" that plug into PCs and verify a student's ID when s/he's online, ZDNET reports. The efforts have both supporters (mostly school officials and parents) and critics (consumer-privacy and civil-liberties organizations), and the technologies have their glitches, but "in the long run," the Times reports, "the biggest problem may be human error. Parents, teachers and administrators said their primary worry is getting students to remember their cards, given they often forget such basics as backpacks, lunch money and gym shoes. And then there might be mischief: students could trade their cards." That last is privacy advocates' greatest concern: students' information getting in the wrong hands. If any of you have experience with or reactions to this, do tell!


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