RFID Tracking Of School Children Has Potential For Abuse By Government And Criminals

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September 11th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

A school district in San Antonio, Texas, is implementing mandatory RFID tracking of students in two of schools, John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School, at a cost of over $500,000. Andrea Hernandez, a student at one of these high schools, is refusing to wear the RFID badge. The Hernandez family and their supporters are protesting against the system over concerns of it being used to violate privacy rights.

San Antonio News Covers RFID Tracking Card Resistance on School Campuses

RFID tracking devices such as these students are to be forced to wear can be detected up to about 70 feet away. Some say the ranges may already be longer than this with recent RFID systems.

Although the basic underlying technology is very similar to proximity cards that been used widely in businesses for decades, most of those ID cards have to be in close physical proximity to a scanner (within a foot) for their RFID information to be captured. The badges being used in San Antonio reportedly contain batteries and higher power transmitters that can be tracked at much greater distances.

Some have been attacking this family as Christian wackos who believe the RFID badges are the “mark of the beast” mentioned in Revelations in the Bible. But there is plenty that can be said about the potential problems of abuse of this technology that has nothing to do with religion.

I would not call myself a Christian, but submit to you that it is ridiculous to mock these people for concerns about the abuse of mandated RFID technology. I share most of their concerns about this technology and also have a few observations that they have not yet mentioned, perhaps because as true Christians they may tend to have trouble thinking up the possible sociopathic intentions and tactics of American government. Not everybody in government is evil, but government attracts some of the most polished sociopaths to its upper echelons where they scheme to use and abuse Americans as if they are mass production farm animals.

Christian Family Refuses Mandatory RFID Chip at Texas School

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Basics of RFID Systems and ID Theft

All RFID technology depends upon using radio frequency transmission of identification information that can be picked up by sensors or scanners of some type that are generally controlled by the owner or operator of a building. Many, perhaps most, of these devices are generally very simple and provide only a single unique identifying number to the scanner. The simplest of these devices often do not even include a power source and depend upon capturing energy from a nearby device, such as by electrical inductance, to power them briefly to transmit their ID information. Usually these simple kinds of RFID systems only work over short distances, even just a few inches in some cases.

While this might be somewhat reassuring that these simplest systems cannot be used to track your every step, this does not stop the potential for abuse. Scanners can be concealed and moved around to grab RFID identifying information off of RFID enabled credit cards and other simple RFID devices even when they are in people’s wallets or purses. With credit cards, the goal of the sneaky RFID scanner is to grab identifying information that can be used to commit financial fraud. In a crowded public place, an identity thief armed with one of these scanners in a backpack or purse can potentially collect dozens or hundreds of credit card numbers.

Such fraud is not expensive to perform. Earlier this year at a hacker conference in Washington, D.C., demonstrators showed how about $350 of equipment could be used to snag RFID credit card numbers and then encode blank credit cards with the captured identifying information. They then showed how they could perform financial transactions using the captured information by using it to pay themselves from their own money, done this way so that it was not technically a crime.

How can you block your RFID enabled credit cards from being scanned like this? One method is to put them in special wallets or purses that are RF shielded. You can also make your own RFID blocking wallet using duct tape and aluminum foil. Another method is to microwave cards containing RFID devices on high for 3 seconds to destroy the RFID chip.

But when you add a power supply and higher power transmitter to an RFID device, like the cards being forced into use in San Antonio schools, the range at which such ID harvesting can be done grows tremendously. Such RFID devices can have their ID information snagged not just by a person near you but even by a person in another room or down a hallway.

More complicated RFID systems may contain information about the tagged person beyond just a simple identifying number. The Bush administration pushed through the use of RFID tags in US Passports that contain much more identifying information.

Quoted from FDA approves implanted RFID chip for humans:

It means that passport holders are continuously broadcasting their name, nationality, age, address and whatever else is on the RFID chip. It means that anyone with a reader can learn that information, without the passport holder’s knowledge or consent. It means that pickpockets, kidnappers and terrorists can easily–and surreptitiously–pick Americans or nationals of other participating countries out of a crowd.

Potential For Government Financial Fraud

One might think that schools and government would not have the incentive and intent to abuse RFID systems like financial criminals. Unfortunately, that is not the case and that is precisely because government has created incentives for such fraud to be executed by government employees.

Using RFID tracking devices on kids is said by schools to be for the purpose of “enhancing revenue” by reducing school absences. They want you to believe that RFID technology will somehow improve school attendance by labeling all the cattle, I mean children, with tags that can be used to track their movements and presence throughout the farms and slaughterhouses — umm, schools.

Let’s postulate they depend upon RFID detections of student’s RFID badge to prove that a kid is at school. How hard is it to spoof such a system or to simply have school officials lie by manipulating RFID tracking databases to get more revenue from state and Federal governments? These people have every incentive to lie to get more revenue for their employers and thereby better job security for themselves.

If you think that is unlikely, then consider that lying to collect Federal and state funding is essentially what employees of a Georgia DCFS (aka CPS) agency in Muscogee County did. Multiple government employees there have been arrested for falsifying child abuse reporting documents that can be used to funnel more money into the coffers of their employers.

When you make a financial incentive that rewards fraud and lying, criminals in government will rise to the occasion just like criminals outside of government.

Potential for Persecution of Students

RFID technology also has the potential to be abused by criminals and the government (which is replete with criminals itself) against children and their families.

Let’s consider the potential for abuse of students by the schools and government. The government has a tendency to misuse technology as “proof” of crimes, such as using IP addresses as if they are “proof” that you are a criminal who should be incarcerated when that IP address is found in a log of a website containing illegal content. Run a wireless access point without encryption and you might get yourself arrested for child pornography, financial crimes, terrorism, or worse. All it takes is somebody noticing your access point and using it to commit a crime. Multiple people have been vilified, imprisoned, and have even died as a result of such false accusations based upon such easily swiped technological artifacts such as credit card numbers and IP addresses.

Those victims of wrongful persecution often had a chance to defend themselves in a court, something that school students seldom get. It is only a matter of time before RFID systems like this one are used to hurt innocent people via false accusations and false punishments.

Schools already routinely dish out punishments without providing required due process to students. Having RFID tracking information will be yet another factor they can use to punish kids without due process.

Here’s an easy abuse scenario for you to consider. Grab a fellow students’ RFID badge while he’s in the gym shower or bathroom, go plant some “evidence” of a crime where the RFID scanners will detect the badge, and then put it back before he notices it is gone. Then make an anonymous tip to the school or cops about the kid and that location.

How much would you bet that the kid whose RFID badge was relocated without his or her knoweldge won’t be punished when school staff finds something wrong where this kid’s badge was only moments before? If they find a bag of drugs then the kid might even find himself arrested and prosecuted as a drug user or dealer.

Then consider how teachers and school staff who dislike a kid for his views might be able to use RFID technology to abuse him or her. While a typical student may not have access to real-time RFID tracking information, school staff quite likely would have success access and it would make it even easier to frame a student for a crime or apply some abusive “punishment” in an attempt to silence a kid who does not agree with official views.

We are living in a nation in which schools can arrange prison time for a student who posts speech on a web site critical of school staff and suspend elementary school students for bringing camping eating utensils to school in their lunches. Don’t you think for a minute that schools will not abuse students and violate their civil rights over the most minor things.

Until you see schools providing due process and civil rights protections for students, you should assume the worst about RFID systems in schools. There are little to no safeguards against abuses in school environments and plenty of precedents in which schools have violated civil rights using the most minor non-problems as excuses for severe punishment.

Potential for Other Abuses

With the recurring incidents of students being sexually abused by their teachers (both female and male teachers), can anybody be naive enough to think that schools do not have criminals on their staffs?

In Philadelphia, a school in the Lower Merion School District was caught activating webcams on school issued laptops to take photographs and monitors students in their own homes without the consent or knowledge of the students or their parents:

Quoted from School accused of off-campus Webcam spying:

What is alleged to have occurred is that the parents of student Blake Robbins received word in November from an official at Harriton High School that their son has been involved in “improper behavior in his home.”

I can find no specifics as to what this improper behavior was supposed to be, or, indeed, how improper it might have been. However, the official allegedly showed the parents a photo taken by his school-issued laptop Webcam. This photo was not one intentionally taken by Robbins, but rather remotely, by the school.
The story, you see, heads in a direction somewhere east of disturbing. The Robbins family says an assistant principal at Harriton High, Lindy Matsko, confirmed that the school district “in fact has the ability to remotely activate the Webcam contained in a student’s personal laptop computer issued by the school district at any time it chose, and to view and capture whatever images were in front of the Webcam.”

The Philadelphia Daily News reported that the 17-page Robbins complaint makes what seems an obvious but still material point: “Many of the images captured and intercepted may consist of images of minors, and their parents or friends, in compromising or embarrassing positions, including, but not limited to, in various stages of dress or undress.”

If such images included naked students as is suggested, that would mean the school district was engaging in the production and distribution of child pornography in additional to violations of numerous other state and Federal computer security and privacy laws and the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. But apparently because the criminals work for the government, they were not prosecuted and a civil lawsuit was needed to stop such crimes.

San Antonio schools claim their RFID badges only work on campus. But in fact they won’t power off merely by leaving the school. Schools such as those in the Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania have shown they do not respect the privacy and civil rights of students and their families even in their own homes and will violate many laws until they are caught. So why should anybody believe that other schools will follow the law?

More importantly, if they are violating the law, then how will anybody know? Lower Merion School District gave itself away when it contacted the parents and supplied a photograph they took of a student in his own home. What if a school employee who is a criminal is smarter than the Lower Merion School District was? How long could they use the RFID system for illicit purposes and get away with it?

School staff could have access to the RFID tracking system for more than just tracking attendance. RFID tracking could be one more tool for perverts on the school staff to use to further their abuse of students while making it harder for them to be held accountable for their crimes. When you have schools reaching into students home and taking pictures of them without their knowledge or consent, how much of a reach is it to think that any school controlled technology that can be used to track, identify, and isolate students could also be used to help commit sexual abuse of some of those students?

Slippery Slope to RFID Implants

In 2004, the US FDA approved microchip RFID implants. In Mexico, children are being microchipped as a measure against kidnapping. If the public does not block RFID badges in schools, you can expect RFID implants for kids to be next. And after that, RFID implants for everybody — except perhaps the political elite who will find some way to exempt themselves from being treated as the cattle that they regard everyone else to be.

Perhaps an ideal government that is intent on following the law and not harming others could be trusted with using data from RFID implants. The United States government is not such a government and everybody who is honest with themselves should be able to see that.

What’s a Kid to Do?

If a school tries to make you wear an RFID badge, be sure to destroy the RFID chip. Very strong static electrical discharge, microwave radiation, cutting or separating the antenna from the rest of the RFID chip, or physical compression of the chip itself (such as impact by a hammer or in a compression vise that has smooth surfaces that won’t leak marks on the outside of the badge) can destroy the RFID abilities of a RFID badge or card while leaving it with an intact appearance.

Here are some instructions on how to destroy RFID capabilities of badges and cards:

Quoted from How to block/kill RFID chips:

Step 4: How to kill your RFID chip

In this step I will describe a few ways to permanently disable or kill an RFID chip. Most products that you own that contain RFID tags belong to you, so you have the right to destroy them; however, tampering with a US passport is a federal offense. Luckily there are ways to kill an RFID tag without leaving any evidence, so as long as you are careful, it would be pretty hard to prove that you did anything illegal.

-The easiest way to kill an RFID, and be sure that it is dead, is to throw it in the microwave for 5 seconds. Doing this will literally melt the chip and antenna making it impossible for the chip to ever be read again. Unfortunately this method has a certain fire risk associated with it. Killing an RFID chip this way will also leave visible evidence that it has been tampered with, making it an unsuitable method for killing the RFID tag in passports. Doing this to a credit card will probably also screw with the magnetic strip on the back making it un-swipeable.

-The second, slightly more convert and less damaging, way to kill an RFID tag is by piercing the chip with a knife or other sharp object. This can only be done if you know exactly where the chip is located within the tag. This method also leaves visible evidence of intentional damage done to the chip, so it is unsuitable for passports.

-The third method is cutting the antenna very close to the chip. By doing this the chip will have no way of receiving electricity, or transmitting its signal back to the reader. This technique also leaves minimal signs of damage, so it would probably not be a good idea to use this on a passport.

-The last (and most covert) method for destroying a RFID tag is to hit it with a hammer. Just pick up any ordinary hammer and give the chip a few swift hard whacks. This will destroy the chip, and leave no evidence that the tag has been tampered with. This method is suitable for destroying the tags in passports, because there will be no proof that you intentionally destroyed the chip.

The article quoted contains a lot of other information on RFID systems and where they are being used, so please read it.

The San Antonio school badges reportedly contain two batteries, therefore microwave heating of them could explode the batteries. However, Andrea Hernandez has reported that at least one student has destroyed a badge by microwaving it for 3 seconds.

If every San Antonio school system RFID badge is destroyed in ways like the above, then there is likely nothing the schools and government can realistically do to the students. If they are careful not to be recorded or watched destroying the chips, nobody could prove who did the damage. Depending upon the tactic used, if no outward physical signs of damage are obvious then it may even not be possible to prove it was not a simply defective card. Additionally, the sheer number of people involved means that investigations or punishments would be unrealistic.

The students can put a stop to this violation, one way or another. Make it a public lesson on civil rights to the schools.

Further Reading

Crimes Against Children: “Zero Tolerance” and “Kids for Cash”

Unsecured Wireless Networks Risk Being Framed for Crime

Texas school district to track kids through RFID tags

School accused of off-campus Webcam spying

RFID Credit Cards Are Easy Prey for Hackers, Demo Shows

Nazi America Takes the Next Shocking Step Toward Tyranny: School Board Wants to Implant RFID Tracking Chips in Utah School Kids

FDA approves implanted RFID chip for humans

Implantable RFID Chips: Human Branding

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