School uses RFID to keep track of students

Calif. school requires radio ID tags for students

SUTTER, Calif. – The only grade school in this rural town is requiring students to wear radio frequency identification badges that can track their every move. Some parents are outraged, fearing it will rob their children of privacy.

The short gist of the article is that a school has introduced RFID as a means of tracking students.

There are fears of people using RFID to “stalk” the students. But if I am not wrong the RFID range is not too far, so if someone was stalking the kids, it would be more effective and easier to use the old fashion way of skulking about in the shadows. Of course there are some who argue that if one can develop a long range tracking device that can be implanted into a child, there will be many parents seeking to buy such devices.
Query – If such a device exist and you have a child who does not mind being “implanted” because she/he is such a sweetie patotie who does not want mommy or daddy to be unnecessarily worried and that she/he feels that such a device is akin to a “guardian angel” would you want your kid to be implanted?
Query – What are the thoughts of the children, for those people that have school age going children on carrying such a device.

1984 and Big Brother:
I never really understood why the moment people talk about tracking or Identification Numbers everyone starts talking about 1984. After all in the utopic universe of Star Trek, all the people have the tracking device of the communication badge. As they say, its 12pm on a school day, do you know where your children are? Or what about “LoneStar” (the “tracking” device for your car, if I managed to get the name correct). Even the cellphones, which almost everyone seems to be carrying can track its signal to obtain the person’s location.

What if one is able to track the movement of everyone but such information is kept in the computer database and that one is only allowed to access them under a court order, say in the instances where the person is being charged with a crime. Is it so bad? Sure it may seem bad for one’s privacy to the extent that a non-sentient computer system knows your movement but as stated above a person’s movement can be tracked.
Query – If such a system exists would you be for it or against it.

The Mark of the Devil
Here is something which I was wondering. Some people seem to believe that RFID is the so called mark of the devil. So can a student refuse to carry the RFID on grounds of religion? What if someone was to interpret a religion to state that students cannot be held after school say for detention. How far can religion go? In areas of education, specifically evolution, it seems that it can go all the way. But in areas where the purpose is for the safety and security of children it would seem that religion may not extend that far.

Edit: I have edited the text to correct some horrific typing errors.

45 thoughts on “School uses RFID to keep track of students

  1. A good friend of mine was a pig farmer.  He said you have to get the pigs used to the idea that you’re the boss when they’re piglets.  Otherwise, when they outweigh you 4 to 1, you won’t be able to manipulate them.

    This has a similar ring to it.  Kids in school are not treated like citizens.  They’re subject to searches, their speech is severely curtailed, and every move they make is scrutinized.  Now this.

    The totalitarian society won’t be thrust on us by revolution; it will grow on us in the name of “safety.”

  2. Those who trade their freedoms for some temporary safety deserve neither freedom nor safety?

    im sure thats a misquote..

    Bottom line is.. i want some privacy in my life and these type of technological advancements have just as many bad features as good.  The technology itself is neutral, but i fear the users of the technology.

  3. Well, given that they don’t have a large range, they wouldn’t be useful for tracking kidnapped children who are taken far away.  Also, if this is being so widely publicised, don’t you think someone out to harm children would think to look for the device and remove it before proceeding with whatever they have planned?
    So why should we sacrifice so much privacy (in a small town, no less!) for something that can’t be all that effective?

  4. Originally posted by Pop Tarts:
    I never really understood why the moment people talk about tracking or Identification Numbers everyone starts talking about 1984.

    Now imagine if the political party most opposite your beliefs gets control of this system.  What kind of privacy do you think you would have?  No one would be safe.  Even if a revolution were successfully carried out against that government, being able to know where your enemies are at all times is not an advantage the revolutionists would get up.

  5. You’re close, Mr. Death.  It’s actually:

    “Those who desire to give up Freedom in order to gain Security, will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”—Thomas Jefferson

    There’s an article in the current UTNE (the cover has a guy riding a giant snail) about RFID tags. 


  6. Theocrat’s point is why people who relish personal freedom fear big government of any sort. RFID mandated by congress for all citizens.  Hmm, Brock, Les, and Mr.Death and DOF have been meeting regularily in Brocks basement! Bring them in for interogation, I mean questioning……

  7. With regards to Theocrat’s point, I would offer the response of Mr Death that technology is neutral.

    The argument raised “What if this technology got into the wrong hands” can be effectively used for almost any and everything. For example, we should not use cars for if the bad government had the use of cars they can pursue and hunt people down with greater ease. Ditto for instant email communications that allows the bad government to send wanted posters out. Or what about guns and weapons.

    Heck even the good old “discovery” of fire can be used for nefarious actions such as destroying property.

    My point is why is such an argument only raised for tracking devices or Identification Numbers when there are a multitude of technology that can do more serious damage.

  8. And the problem with that argument of “it doesn’t matter” is the fact that it really, REALLY does.  Decrepit Old Fool, you said it absolutely perfectly.  Kids today are considered more like livestock than actual human beings, and our educational system is slowly turning into a giant cattle farm where all is assimilated for a generally mediocre product.  And now, kids can’t even sneak out of class because they’re being TRACKED by radio transmitters?  All I have to say is that complete order is never a possibility, and the less trust you put in those who are under your guidelines, and the less freedom you give them, the more they are going to want to rebel.

    Well, the smart ones, anyway.

  9. There is a big difference between mobile/cell phones and these tags: you choose to carry a phone.  These other car tracking things – you choose to have them.

    Its all about the eradication of trust and liberty.  Our elected leaders and their staff are actually our servants.  In the UK, thats what they are called – civil servants.  We choose what they should do.  When they end up tracking US – its round the wrong way.

  10. Years ago, I had a conversation with the D.A.R.E. officer who visited regularly at the school our sons attended.  Personally, I did not like the man himself, (I poured his coffee as a waitress at the diner) let alone seeing him carrying a gun as an authority figure. Oh, that’s another tale.
    Anyway, I went to the classroom the day he was to speak.  He refused to allow this grown-up into the room.  In fact, he even wanted the teacher to leave. (Others did, saying it was a welcome break) 
    I went to the Principal and complained that I had a mother’s obligation to be there.  In fact, the school stresses that any parent is Welcome for all sorts of events.
    Thank goodness, the Principal decided that school policy should prevail, and from then on the teacher must remain in the room for all sessions.
    My son told me later that the cop often asked the children if any of their family at home had stuff like this (a bag of marijuana to demonstrate). 
    He was using the kids to narc on relatives.  Not that anyone at City Hall would own up to it.

  11. I know as a liberal, I’m supposed to be afraid of this, but as a parent of a small child, I kinda like the idea of the school knowing where my kid is when she is under their supervision, despite all the “pot leads to heroin” analogies. My wife is an elementary school teacher and the authority figures at her school really are the good guys. They’re not out to rob kids of their rights, they just want to keep them safe until their parents pick them up. They can use all the help they can get.

  12. Safety’s great, Brooks.  Who’s going to keep them safe from the authorities? 

    I don’t think I’m being paranoid here.  How long a list could you make of examples where the authorities turned out not to be trustworthy? Start from your own town and your own lifetime and work out from there…

  13. As a former daycare teacher, I know that the most help I ever got was from the children themselves.  The ones who stood tall and owned up to their action, whether it was helping with clean-up or coloring the walls with markers.  Running and hiding behind equipment on the playground caused more panic of teachers than any number of deliverymen ringing the buzzer at the entrance to the building. 
    It takes parents and teachers who allow the child to think for him/herself,to try new activities,and to understand consequences.  There is a delicate balance not to overprotect or threaten. 
    A child who hasn’t built logic and confidence within will follow anyone who is stronger or more affectionate. 
    A child molester usually is an acquaintance of the family, contrary to reports on the news about Amber Alerts.

  14. I don’t doubt that “the authorities” can be corrupt, but I’m trying to talk about children IN school. Keeping technology out of schools that might help keep kids safe isn’t going to keep it out of the hands of the authorities outside of school. The technology already exists. The test in question is just that, a test. I don’t see any harm in finding out what it’s potential is, bad and/or good. My problem, if you want to call it that, is that I’m not making the jump from a very limited system with limited capabilities in a school environment with small children to Big Brother tracking my every move as an adult so he can catch me doing something illegal. The difference is akin to conservatives thinking that gay marriage will lead to a man marrying his dog. grin

  15. Like Mrs DOF said. But then, having raised only six children, I’m not much of an authority on these things. Are these devices supposed to keep the children safe? Wouldn’t keeping them in a plastic bubble or some sort of institution do as well? Then how would they learn the consequenses of their actions? What a conundrum!

  16. Oh fuck me, I wrote a nice long post that’s vanished into thin air.

    It’s not the technology itself or its potential to track people that I object to so much, in the case of using RFID in school. More importantly I’m trying desperately to raise my kid NOT to be afraid and ignorant (which is becoming more difficult by the day), and having to let the “authorities” keep track of you in order to keep you safe implies that you aren’t.  In my opinion it’s a backhanded reinforcement of the constant fear-mongering that I find unconscienable, and has a great many Americans joining the herd of sheeple falling to their knees, begging God and government to protect them.

    In my household, being a good American means REFUSING to trade liberty for security.

  17. School is not the only area where RFID technology is a concern. How do any of you feel about it being used in a National ID Card and in consumer purchasing? What next? Medical and genetic records?

    I do not at all feel comfortable with any entity being privy to my whereabouts and consumer history for any reason. And it is not that I have anything to hide. But with the ever changing criteria for ending up on a terror suspect list or what have you,  any one of us could end up on a McCarthy list for innocuous reasons or for reasons never told to us in the interest of cough::: National Security:::cough.

    I am not a paranoid conspiracy theory kinda gal but this much governmental voyeurism places a very bad taste in my mouth.

  18. The question is exactly what problem these RFID chips are supposed to solve.

    By definition, you can only track the presence of the chip at a short range away from the senders that query the chips. Unless you surgically implant the chips, that doesn’t give you much and unless the country is riddled by a network of senders, once the chip is out of range, you’re back to square one.

    So what the schools can get is to monitor movement of the chips inside the premises and probably perimeter control. I wonder what security problem the school addresses by tracking chips, I mean students inside of a building…

    Deadscot mentioned a survey of highschool students in which 30% of them responded that the current freedom of press is going too far and that the media should vet their stories with the government. So perhaps students might even support them getting tagged.

    However, at our school we would have hacked (in the traditional sense) such a system in a hurry. Imagine all the fun to be had. First, find out how to shield the tags (not hard at all). Next, clone the chips. That shouldn’t be hard, either, and software to read up and modify the RFID content are readily available from some helpful German non-enthusiasts.

    Now, the chips must be dirt cheap. Clone a few chips in the hundreds or thousands. How does the monitoring software cope? Keep the chip shielded on the way in or out. Does the software detect the anomaly? If not, why bother using it in the first place? What happens if a student enters once, leaves twice? Hmmm. What about multiple instances present at the same time?

    These are just things I can think of at first glance. We would have tried them all and then some.

  19. Some canny legislator – I think it was Lyndon Johnson – once said that you should think more about how a law will be misused than about how it will be used.  That’s a good model for institutional technology.

    There are several assumptions that tracking technology in schools require.  The first is that the authorities themselves are trustworthy.  Brooks’ school notwithstanding, (and that is an open question – people with bad actions on their minds don’t advertise) I have seen many examples locally, and state and national where school officials turned out to be someone the children needed protecting from

    The second assumption is that children should be OK with limitations on their rights as citizens. Kids in school only learn about freedom in abstraction.  No wonder they think freedom of speech goes too far.  The problem is, once conditioned to this mindset, they grow up to become voters with no deep understanding of freedom.

    The third assumption is that safety is so important that you should give up freedoms for it.  That is the most dangerous one.  As the essayist Jack Gordon said, “Safety is a fine thing, but an obsession with it rots the soul.”

    The obsession with safety is dangerous because it’s an illusion, and because it snuffs innovation.  Stepping off the path is dangerous but new answers won’t be found on the well-worn path.  This is no abstraction as our kids need to know how to interact with a rapidly changing world.  Conditioned to staying on the path, they’re ill-equipped to push any boundaries.  And in the long run, they won’t be safe either.

    It’s no use protesting that any risk to our kids is unacceptable; risk can’t be eliminated.  If systems are created that make it impossible for kids to sneak out of school, that small risk is traded for a much larger one of the kids graduating from school with no understanding of consequences to actions.  Kids need to make mistakes.

    (I went to a private Christian college.  No drinking allowed, strict curfew, etc.  Who do you think we had to help up the stairs, clean up at night, and put to bed? The ministers’ kids.)

    Elwed asks a good question: what problem are these chips intended to solve?  Is there an epidemic of kids being snatched from school?  And would such a system help if there were?  The answer is no, and probably not.

    Parents have (until now) recognized the most important agent in their kids’ safety is the kids themselves.  Grims’ fairy tales and native American legends often stylized genuine risks to kids to make them wary. 

    Parents today should read Protecting The Gift by Gavin DeBecker and pay special attention to the parts about educating kids to watch out for themselves.  DeBecker then goes on to advocate for lots of authority-based safety programs and for reasons I have just expressed I think those should be limited in scope.

    The most hopeful possibility is that the technology would be an expensive boondoggle, due in part to kids hacking the system.  Unfortunately, draconian penalties for tampering with computer systems will discourage young people from developing an eye for real security faults. 

    Do we want our kids to grow up to be sheep?

  20. Originally posted by Pop Tarts:
    My point is why is such an argument only raised for tracking devices or Identification Numbers when there are a multitude of technology that can do more serious damage.

    The private citizen has a use for fire, cars, guns, etc.  The only thing I can imagine a private citizen using an RFID tag for is to track down keys and wallet if they get lost.  The governments and corporations have much more to gain from this technology than the people do.  That’s what makes this technology more dangerous than others.

  21. Brooks said:

    but as a parent of a small child, I kinda like the idea of the school knowing where my kid is when she is under their supervision

    Call me old fashioned, but if the school officials don’t know where my kid is without a tracking device, then said school officials are in the wrong business and I am back in the director’s office demandning an out of zone form signature.  wink

    Just sayin’.

  22. By definition, you can only track the presence of the chip at a short range away from the senders that query the chips. Unless you surgically implant the chips, that doesn’t give you much and unless the country is riddled by a network of senders, once the chip is out of range, you’re back to square one.

    While this may have been true a year-or-so ago, many advances have been made in RFID technology.  One company, Indentec Solutions now boasts chips that can be read from over 100 meters away.  Another company called Tag Master has developed a shield-proof tag and a shield detector just in case some does hack it.

    I’ve even heard rumor that a company out of Silicon Valley is preparing to release chips that rival the best cordless phones in range.

    I have to admit the technology is impressive but as DOF already mentioned, this is exercise in training to masses and one day we’ll all have been chipped and not remember why.

  23. Everyone is making great points here and I agree with a lot of you even though I’m playing devil’s advocate a bit here. I’m also mainly talking about elementary school, so most of the arguments don’t really apply to what I’m saying. I doubt that a six year old is going to hack the system and start selling counterfeit badges on the kindergarten black market.

    As long as the ratio of teachers to students is getting better in this country, oh wait, the complete opposite is happening out here, I’m all for forgoing additional technology to help. We’ll see if something has to give when class sizes get so big that there’s no way to keep track of all the kids.

    I guess the loss of a few kids in the name of educating them to take care of themselves is a small price to pay, especially for the parents and kids we don’t lose. Sorry, now I’m just stirring the pot. grin

  24. I was wondering whether is this RFID fear more of a Western and North American thing than a worldwide fear.

    In Asia most notably in Japan and Korea the use of RFID technology is gathering at a fast pace. From public transport cards, to mobile phones even to home appliances such as knives (to track which knives a person use so the company can send you relevant products) and to GPS tracking school bags. And as the post above pointed out RFID can be used for medical purposes. Having a chip in your body that lists the drugs you are allegic to or medical history is very useful if say you are in an accident and emergency treatment is required and perhaps the patient is unconscious, such information could be life saving.

    Even in Europe, RFID is used so that people need not bring their wallets to the beaches or clubs. Not too sure if the chip is implanted into the person or not but it is carried about. So I would say that a citizen would gain quite a lot from RFID even with today’s development, more so than guns, which allows a citizen to say hunt or shoot at tin cans or occassionaly blast that thief or attacker.

    Is RFID tracking device to N.America similar to GM food fears in Europe? Sure there are significant amount of people in N.America that do not like GM food but compared to Europe it pales in comparison.

    Also is this RFID/tracking fear culture based? Two possible reasons:
    1) Religion:
    Judeo-Christian fears of the device may have expanded into a wider social and cultural context.

    One example of this is stem cell research. The objections to it and cloning in the West do not come only from the religious people. But in Asia, their religion is not particularly against such research and thus there is no or little fear spilling out into the general public.

    2) Philosophy:
    The Judeo-Christian society operates on the idea that there should be huge limitations on government because you cannot trust them and this seems more prevalent in US.

    In comparison, the Asian idea of a government seem to operate on the idea that if you control and resist the government in everything, nothing can be done.

    3) History:
    Linked to the philosophy, is the history of the country’s development. In the West democratic government came about (among other reasons) as a protest to the absolute rule of the monarchy.

    But in Asia, democratic governments came about either through a fight for freedom against colonialism or in the case of Japan was imposed on it. In both cases the “bad” guys was not your fellow citizen but some foreigner and the government was “protecting” the citizens. Furthermore, in the case of S.Korea and Taiwan, the military dictatorship gave up power without a bloody struggle.

    And finally in many (but not all) of Asia’s democracy a large part of their economic development was lead in part by the government.

    An examination of the Philippines shows that the country has a term limit on the President, perhaps as a response the the Marcos era.

    Fear based Regime
    One thing actually the only thing message from the show bowling from Columbine (since, sale of guns, race, etc has been discounted during the show) is that in the US there is a lot of fear based arguments. The “What you don’t know may kill you” types of argument

    Looking at the article posted above on talks about drug lords and terrorists knowing your address, perhaps all that is left for them to claim is that they may sell your information to Osama and he may turn up at your house trying to sell you cookies for his Al Qaeda bakesale. Is it possible? Of course but if one is so afraid of everything, one might as well reject a large part of modern inventions.

    BUT you people obviously are not so is there some reason that RFID/tracking fears is so special and unique when as stated above, its usefulness as seen in Asia is quite extensive.

  25. As an aside, I have seen people mention the survey on school children whereby they state that either freedom of press or freedom of expression is going to far. I have not had the opportunity of seeing the actual survey or report but I have some points I wish to raise.

    What does the student mean when they feel the freedom is going too far.

    Could the students be thinking about hate speech. Perhaps, after 9/11 the students realise that speech can result in violence and terrorism or perhaps they have seen their Muslim friends being targeted and feel there should be protection being afforded to them.

    Perhaps, they find the fact that freedom of expression is being used to protect racism or Nazism when in Europe Nazi expression is curtailed (French and Yahoo Nazi case) and yet one cannot really claim that in Europe the freedom of expression is vastly weaker than the US.

    Perhaps they realise that all the hate being spewed out in certain places on homosexuals is raising a new generation of bigots.

    Perhaps they realise how speech can trigger genocide such as the conviction of Radio Rwanda for inciting genocide.

    Furthermore, an examination of students entering college have found that there is an increase in number of students who describe themselves in the extreme of one position rather than a moderate.

    What exactly is the students saying?

  26. Liberal Zak: “Hell no!”

    Dad of a 6 month old Zak: “I’m planting an RFID in my kid’s right buttcheek at the earliest possible convenience.”

    Conflicts, conflicts…

  27. Really interesting comments, PopTarts.

    I’d be more inclined to trust the gov’t if the gov’t had proven itself trustworthy.  But it has not.  Over and over it has lied and manipulated, starting wars and fattening corporations to the detriment of ordinary people.  Even local officials cannot be trusted – again not a prejudice but experience.  One of our kids’ DARE officers was trying to get the kids to narc on their parents and another was later busted for selling dope.

    The list of official malfeasance is like the Energizer Bunny; it goes on, and on, and on…

    Even when officials have good intentions they are often good intentions in the wrong direction.  They are earnestly trying to accomplish something that doesn’t need accomplishing.  The war on drugs is an excellent example.  It has turned our inner cities into war zones, fattened and empowered gangs and crime syndicates, and prompted the creation of ever more dangerous street drugs.

    As for opposing the gov’t being an obstacle to getting things done, an apocryphal quote from Mark Twain goes: “No man’s liberty or property are safe while Congress is in session.”

    As for “hate speech” the correct response is counter-speech, not censorship.  What happened to, “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend your right to say it”?  The same right ensures the democratic marketplace of ideas will function as it is supposed to. Check out the thread on “Being allowed to believe what you want to believe.”

    We’ve gotten used to being pretty complacent about our freedoms.  This is a big mistake.  It especially bothers me that our children are being taught to get in line and follow. Even small examples of disorderly conduct are being hit with huge sanctions.

  28. Actually DOF, I have thought about the issue of freedom of expression and censorship and the whole market place of ideas.

    The response of “counter speech” is not the “correct” response (in the technical sense of the word correct and others being wrong) but rather it is an American response. Canadian adopt a slightly different variation to the market place of ideas response and there are several different types of responses in other democratic countries. Each has its own strength and weakness.

    I am currently writing (or attempting) to write something that would provide a reasoned and rational basis for censoring hate speech rather than an ad hoc censoring of anything you do not like. It is mostly a legal argument focusing on using various existing laws but in VERY rough and summarised form:

    1) Inconsistencies in laws: Sometimes theory does not work as well as in practice. From anti-trust and false advertising to more specifically laws on defamation. If you defame another person by publishing an article even if you get a front page apology you may still have to end up paying damages to the person. Why? In a true market place of ideas the truth would triumph and if so there should not be any damages especially since damages are based on lose to reputation.

    2) Discoveries on human mind: Research have shown that humans are not exactly rational beings (which is why sometimes people question assumptions made by economic theories). But more importantly, studies have shown that people tend to remember what they believe in. So even if you tell the person that the statement made was wrong, if that statement supports his belief, he will tend to carry on believing in them. A look at discussions by people on say President Bush on issues such as the reason for war shows how people get entrench in their position in an almost “protectionism” like system rejecting ideas that oppose their belief.

    3) Speech and Violence: Expression in the form of violence is not protected and neither is a threat of violence to a person even if you did not really mean it. Radio Television Rwanda did not kill anyone but its speech that called for genocide showed the link between speech and violence. Or more fantastically, a mobster making a standing offer to pay anyone who kills a particular person cannot claim to be protected.

    4) Long and Short term: With the link of speech to violence, a person from that has been targeted and perhaps had violence done would take cold comfort in knowing that perhaps the market place of ideas would work in the “long run” but in the “short run” they just have to suffer. As one John Maynard Keynes once said, we are all dead in the long run.

    5) Direct Violence: Statements that call for direct violence against a particular group should not be protected.

    6) Truth as defence: Speech that may lead to indirect violence such as stating that a particular group is inferior or that they are “diseased” etc should be examine using laws of defamation such that if the statement has truth in them they are protected but if they are not then they are not protected. Half truth is not allowed in the court of law (tell the whole truth…) and thus statements that is true but is a half truth is not protected. This should work together with the concept of malice.

    Individual v Group: Why is it that actions that is not acceptable by the law if it is directed as an individual suddenly becomes protected when directed against a group.

    7) Others: I have other parts that is related to feminist and establishment theories together with potential pitfalls. There is also more legal stuff on aspects examining the various possible forms of enforcement and remedies.

  29. Pop Tarts,

    here’s a link to the ABC News article. They don’t provide a link to the report proper (as far as I can see).

    Just one quote:

    The survey of 112,003 students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get “government approval” of stories before publishing; 51% say they should be able to publish freely; 13% have no opinion.

  30. Pop Tarts,
    I don’t think comparison to Asia is necessarily a good POV.  I’ll take Japan on since I’m more familiar with it than the other countries you mentioned.

    Japan has a shame culture that’s very focused on community.  This leads to several problems, of which the GPS tracking systems in backpacks and RFID are only one result.

    Japanese culture:

    1. In the country, everyone knows what you’re doing.  There’s no need for RFID because people are always watching and gossiping.  Japanese people like knowing where all of their group is.

    2.Conformity is prized.  All the students wear uniforms and any self-expression is removed, covered in black hair spray, or sent home.

    3. In the 60s and 70s, mothers were urged to become super parents and work themselves practically to death to provide for their children’s happiness, safety, well-being, school lunches, etc etc.  This was part of an effort to encourage a baby boom to recover from the effects of WW2.


    1.  As more people move into the city, it becomes impossible to keep an eye on everyone at every time.  Even so, Japan is one of the, if not, THE safest country in the world.  But as crime increases, the defenses they are used to become hard to maintain.

    2.  Also a result of city living, people who don’t conform or already have friends may never have friends.  Some people become complete recluses and never leave their houses for years while their parents/someone they pay bring them food and necessities.  Some people make a living off keeping other people company.

    3.  Children are losing their desire to make lives of their own and instead live in their parents’ homes for as long as they can manage, jobless and leeching off their ever-generous parents.

    These RFID tags result from all of these problems—the loss of surveillance capabilities, the increased individuality of some/exclusion by friends which could lead to any number of things such as suicide and running away, and the institutionalized encouragement of parents to protect their young beyond what is really, in my mind, normal.
    In addition, Japanese have a general tendency to apply bandaids over gaping wounds—so long as it looks good, it must be good—whether or not it actually works.  Another example is police cars that play loud warning recordings as they drive through neighborhoods.  They’re meant to deter criminals, but all they do is help criminals get away.  So I wouldn’t say that the use of these tags for Japanese schoolchildren is the result of healthy attitudes regarding technology and safety.

    As for government, the Japanese govt is full of corrupt officials who take handouts from the mafia in exchange for commissions of companies held by mafia people.  Elections are pretty well fixed before they’ve voted, but people go along with it because they’re afraid to be different/it’s too hard to change.  If you want to call that a good model, I won’t stop you, but I strongly disagree.

    (Apologies to Japan for my vast generalizations…)

    Also, I think you could use your fear argument to support the use of RFID as well…the people are quick to use such devices for fear their kids will be kidnapped by Osama, the liberals, or the big boogey man.

    I think you had some good points about the use of RFID tags in some situations.  But I still think, as with any technologies such as guns, cars, fire, etc., there have to be limits set.  I’m more than happy to use those tags when I go to the health club or in the case of a medical allergy but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna carry a tracking device in my bag or carry a national ID card with one.  Those things have shown up in money and on lipstick tubes from Walmart, and I think that’s going a bit too far.

  31. the Japanese govt is full of corrupt officials who take handouts from the mafia in exchange for commissions of companies held by mafia people.

    Mafia? Really?

    Or are you using mafia as a term for organized crime in general and not necessarily La Cosa Nostra? I would have thought organized crime in Japan would be dominated by the Yakuza.

  32. Indeed you are right.  But I am wary of typing or saying that word here…probably nothing would happen, but most Japanese seem mortified if I mention the name, and my friend was scammed by one of them for quite a lot of money…I’d just rather not go there smile
    I sure am superstitious for an atheist wink

  33. We all have our little superstitions, no matter how much we adhere to logic.

    I’m a huge baseball fan and I’ve managed to convince myself that if my team is winning and I turn off the game before the end, the other team will rally and win. Of course I know it’s completely irrational and most of my brain rejects the idea, but I still watch to the end, every time.

  34. That’s not a superstition, that’s a rationalization. I use them all the time with my wife. She hates me for it…

    “But honey, I can’t turn off the TV now or the bad guys will kill James Bond!”

    “Sweetheart, that’s a movie. Not a live sporting event. You can’t use that superstition in this situation.”

    “Oh. I can’t? OK.”

  35. Is there a different concept of trust? Is it different between:
    1) I do not trust the government because it is corrupt.
    2) I do not trust the government because I fear it will use its powers to oppress me.
    I think they are two different kinds of distrust.

    In a sense, you are right that Japanese officials seem corrupt either through the construction works or through the powerful finance ministry. But is this distaste of government similar to the distaste with regards to the fear that government may track the citizens down. Obviously, my knowledge of Japan is limited only to my trips there compared to you actually living there. Are you a native?

    Diverting from Topic at hand to questions on Japan:
    By the way, one thing that I have never been comfortable is going to a traditional inn, those with the hot springs, and meeting the opposite sex naked. I just feel so uncomfortable that I cannot enjoy the acid burning my skin away. Speaking of Japan, I am now drooling thinking about the food there. Another question, is it just the particular few restaurant I visit but is fugu only sold in specialised restaurants because the few times I had it was only at those restaurants that only serves it, (when it is in season, what do they serve at other times of the year?) excluding those inns that serve you a nice elaborate meal in your room. Finally, I must add that the BEST BEST tempura I ever had was at this Tokyu restaurant that only serves tempura (not just your usual prawn and vegetables but a whole range). At least with Sashimi you can find comparable places across the world but not tempura. Great place, to keep the oil clean they change it after each course and of course seeing the chef dipping his fingers into the boiling oil is always nice… Alright I have to go eat something, all this talk about food. I have to go to Japan soon, just to eat the food!

  36. Originally posted by Pop Tarts:
    Is there a different concept of trust? Is it different between:
    1) I do not trust the government because it is corrupt.
    2) I do not trust the government because I fear it will use its powers to oppress me.

    I am thinking that those are both good reasons to not trust the government with RFID tags.  Why should we differentiate between different kinds of trust when the government will “use its powers to oppress me” “because it is corrupt.”  No RFID tags for the government to embed in its citizens as long as the law grants us a right to privacy.

  37. Three different points to be made:
    1) Expanding on point Market place of ideas
    Recent cases have shown the potential failure of the market place models. (Note I am not saying other models are better but merely market place model is not the best.) The recent McLibel case just decided in the European Court of Human Rights determine that one would not get a fair trial if one is not provided legal aid especially up against a big corporation like McDonald. The seems to recognise that cash can influence the opinion of people and that success of ideas in the market place model may turn on how wealthy one side is. A more tenuous case can be made out over the recent valentine day suicide. There is a recognition that a person may prey on another’s emotional state.

    Of course, as the article on Air America shows. People may simply gravitate to ideas that they like. How is it a market place when you only give thought to ideas from an “approved” or “trusted” or “fair and balanced” network.

    And the distribution of religion and the its various substrains is not equal across the world but it strongly relates to the region. If market place of ideas work there should be a fair distribution.

    2) Right to Privacy
    Is there truly a right to privacy? If I hire a private investigator to follow a person around am I breaking any laws? What about those celebrity phtographers? It can be argued that there is a over-reaching right to privacy but one could argue that such right is extremely limited.

    3) Types of trust
    I think you (Theocrat) need to read my comments in light of my earlier statements on the difference in culture since I am not making the exact argument you are trying to take down.

    But if I was making such an argument, I could easily adopt the argument favored by some religious people. The argument made in relation to the comments that there are many people who do bad things in the name of religion, that is how is their actions relevant to your belief.

    In other words there is a need to separate the issues. Based on your argument I could easily provide that since we do not trust the government with our privacy then surely we cannot trust the government with guns since getting shot at is somehow more dangerous than getting tracked, so better not to have the police or the military.

  38. DOF, thanks for posting that Jack Gordon essay. If even a significant fraction of the American populace would read those Shell-Economist essays, the world would be a much better place.

  39. Originally posted by Pop Tarts:
    3) Types of trust
    I think you (Theocrat) need to read my comments in light of my earlier statements on the difference in culture since I am not making the exact argument you are trying to take down.

    I never did understand why you brought Japan into this discussion to begin with.  Could you concisely and clearly remake your argument?  Shana posted what seems to be a counterargument(forgive me if it is not) to your reference to Japan.  What do you say to her?

    Originally posted by Pop Tarts:
    The argument made in relation to the comments that there are many people who do bad things in the name of religion, that is how is their actions relevant to your belief.

    I’m taking a technical writing class right now so I should know how to get to the essence of wordy sentences, forgive me, but I am not sure what this means.

    Originally posted by Pop Tarts:
    Based on your argument I could easily provide that since we do not trust the government with our privacy then surely we cannot trust the government with guns since getting shot at is somehow more dangerous than getting tracked, so better not to have the police or the military.

    Except that as long as we have the right and ability to bear arms we can level the playing field somewhat.  If we and the government were given the right to use RFID tags.  The government can track us, but exactly how can we use them against the government to level the playing field there?  We can’t exactly track the government in return.  RFID tags are a one sided issue when it comes to privacy.  Only government benefits from their use.

  40. I wrote a huge post which was eaten mercilessly by my taking too long to type it.  RAR.

    Soon I will get over the frustration.  That time is not now.

  41. Some response:
    1) Ctrl A + Ctrl C
    Is the most important thing to do before posting. Copy and place it on a notepad or just copy before hiting the post.

    By the way this post would have been lost if I had not use the above method.

    2) Japan:
    It was not an argument relating to Japan per se. But an argument that relates to culture, history and education. A person’s level of trust in a particular institution is built on previous experiences. Take the “institution” of the boyfriend or girlfriend. If a person’s 5 previous ex all cheated on the person, he or she would be very wary of the next lover.

    I select Japan not because it has the highest trust in government, because one survey have shown that their level of trust is lower than US. But I select it because it is a place where the usage of RFID is quite high. The factors mentioned by Shana could contribute to their usage but such factors are also present in parts of the US. Other reasons could be that Japanese (not all obviously) are more comfortable with technology. Have you seen the research video on Swedish and Japanese kids, whereby they give the kids the mechanical toy dog (Aibo?). Both groups have not yet played with the toy dog in the past but Swedish kids lose interest after a short while in comparison to Japanese kids who were more interested in them.

    The mention of Japan is not an argument for or against RFID as you make it out to be but merely an observation of various countries. For example, in non-democratic China their level of trust in government is quite high. And if I recall correctly, the institution most trusted in democratic Singapore is the dominant political party over there. These nations all had one thing in common and that is that there government played an important part in it development. But one of the reason fo the difference in Japan is due to the economic slump they are in ever since the bubble burst and successive governments have not been able to lift the economy.

    3) Separate the issues:
    Perhaps the use of guns is too generic a term. Let me use a different example so you do not get caught up with the “level the playing field” myth. Let us use F16 fighter jets, M1 Tanks, Tomahawk missiles or nuclear weapons. The government have them. Are they not inherently more dangerous and furthermore individuals cannot use them.

    As for the statement you (Theocrat) are confused about I apologise as I cannot seem to remember the exact phrase used by CS Lewis. What is the response a religious makes when the other person states that “why should I follow your ___ religion, look at the amount of evil that have been done in the name of ___ religion.” Not looking for definition response where a person defines that if they are doing evil they are not really following the religion.

    4) Usage of RFID
    Finally as pointed out earlier, there are many possible usage on RFID. From medical reasons, storage of electronic money (at the beach or clubs), news/information updates, etc. A simple search of the net on RFID use would show the uses of it.

  42. Yeah, I did copy, but I thought it posted so I went about other business, copying and pasting and only later discovered that it hadn’t. 

    Anyway, Theo-I was the one who pinpointed Japan because Poptarts was using a number of east Asian countries (one being Japan) as example.  When he mentioned Japan, I thought of many reasons, what I would consider uncomfortable/bad reasons, as to why they would use RFID and why Japan is not a good role model in that way.

    But let’s forget Japan.  My main issue is that I wouldn’t trust any government with that sort of capability.  It’s sort of like the Ring—in the hands of good people, it does good, and in the hands of bad people, it does bad.

    On the gun issue—let’s separate the issues further.  RFID chips are not the same as guns. 
    They’re of an entirely different nature and they have different purposes. 

    I don’t think we should use RFID for the purpose discussed in the article.  Some other purposes are fine, others are not.
    On the aside to Poptarts…
    Most of the onsens I’ve been to have been sex-segregated.  Try those!
    I love tempura, too!

  43. since getting shot at is somehow more dangerous than getting tracked, so better not to have the police or the military

    *erghm* —looks around nervously—

    I, uh, I’m not trying to come across as a smart-ass, but I’d argue that RFID and guns is kind of an apples and oranges comparison.

    Primarily because, most of the time, if someone’s shooting at you, you KNOW it.

    Now, if the government had figured out a way to secretly shoot us, without us ever noticing, then I might be a little bit more supportive of secretly implanting everyone with a handgun.

    oh, wait. . .

    —shakes head in confusion—


  44. Interesting that guns and RFID would come up in the same discussion.  In Iraq, most families owned guns (Hey NRA, I thought that was supposed to prevent tyranny!?) and not trivial guns, either.  Most had assault weapons… AK47s.

    One letter writer to our local paper who was part of the invading and occupying force in Germany in WWII said that most of the German families he met owned guns, too.  But it didn’t protect them from tyranny.  (Of course he’s just one guy and didn’t visit every house in Germany.)

    How are governments able to tyrannize armed populations?  By an extremely tight net of surveillance.  No one makes a move that they don’t know about.

    In the case of Germany and Iraq it was a highly-motivated net of informants (I’d be pretty motivated too if the motivation was torture – which is why torture is so exclusively a tool of tyranny.)

    Extremely advanced electronic surveillance could accomplish – even simplify – the same level of control over a population.  Tracking devices are the never-sleeping informants.  Who gets to receive the information they collect?

  45. This company proposes the use of RFID chips that would be left at the scene of “hit and run” accidents.

      These unique identifiers would then act as a sort of “automotive DNA,”  providing the registration information for that particular vehicle.

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