EFF: Privacy and safety questions loom over federal program to track preschoolers

In this previous article, I wrote about RFID tracking of preschoolers at the George Miller III Headstart site. Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with the ACLU of Northern California, published an open letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services Department.

In this previous article, I wrote about RFID tracking of preschoolers at the George Miller III Headstart site. Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with the ACLU of Northern California, published an open letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services Department. Many of the questions they addressed were some of the same questions I presented to Karen Mitchoof, public information officer for the Contra Costa Employment and Human Services Department. Although Mitchoof answered all my questions with openness, I agree that there needs to be formal public discussions about privacy issues regarding the use of RFID technology in tracking people. Just because they are not violating anyone’s privacy now does not mean they can’t or won’t in the future. And the procedures of one county does not dictate the procedures for the next county. It’s a new technical frontier and open discussion and debate should be encouraged. Here is the post from the Electronic Frontier Foundation licensed under Creative Commons.

Open Letter from ACLU-NC and EFF Calls for Answers About Controversial RFID Program

San Francisco – The ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are calling for answers to critical privacy and safety questions that loom over a controversial federal program to track preschoolers with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips at George Miller III Head Start program in Richmond, California.

In an open letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services Department, ACLU-NC and EFF are asking officials to disclose what technical and security measures are used by the system to safeguard the privacy and safety of preschoolers, as well as what data is collected, how long it is retained, and who has access to the information. The letter also calls on officials to publicly address why and how the government decided to track Head Start students, and if the government plans to expand such tracking.

“This program allows for far more invasive surveillance than is required for attendance and other record-keeping for a Head Start program,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. “We want to know how and when privacy and security issues were considered in the development of this program, and how many other schools will be pressured to implement this system.”