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SB 1078: RFID in Student IDs (2005)


SB 1078 would have prohibited the use of student-issued radio frequency identification (RFID) devices to monitor students or record student attendance in public schools.

For more information, you can read the SB 1078 "Fact Sheet" prepared by a member of Senator Simitian's staff.

Final Status and Text

SB 1078 is no longer active. Its final status was:
Did not pass the Legislature

You can read its final text on the Legislature's Bill Information site.

Background Information

“Treat kids like sheep, with virtual bells around their necks, and pretty soon they’ll start acting like them—not like young citizens learning their rights and responsibilities.”—The Editors, San Jose Mercury News (February 11, 2005)

Schools are not places for compulsory RFID tracking.  Students who go to public schools should not be forced to be tagged and tracked like cattle.  Yet this is precisely what the RFID industry would like to happen, supposedly in the name of “efficiency and safety.”  In early 2005, when a northern California school district deployed a RFID system to monitor and record the presence of its pupils, a broad coalition of parents, students, and privacy advocates vigorously protested and the system was dropped.  But the RFID industry still sees a big potential market in public schools and has been offering schools financial incentives to embrace RFID for student monitoring.  RFID should be used where it is appropriate, such as for tracking merchandise in a store or prisoners in a jail—not for children in a public school.

When it comes to student safety, RFID is no substitute for teacher and school staff responsibility.  Absent significant protections, RFID does not offer a reliable way to identify individuals, according to a recent report by the privacy office of the federal Department of Homeland Security.  Unlike sheep, students can ask their friends to hold their RFID devices, trade them with each other, put them in the classroom and then leave, lose them, or simply not keep them on their body.  If any of these situations were to occur, teachers and school staff who put their trust in RFID as a quick and reliable way to keep track of students would be seriously misled as to their students’ actual whereabouts.

Recording attendance using RFID invites attendance inaccuracies and ADA (average daily attendance) calculation errors.  Because of the limited reliability of using RFID to identify individuals accurately, RFID attendance-recording systems are prone to serious errors, such as misidentifying students or not counting a student at all.  This can lead to situations in which schools produce misleading ADA data and either claim funding from the state that is not owed to them or receive less money than they should.

RFID can endanger students’ privacy and safety off-campus.  The lack of even the most basic security protections in school-issued RFID devices (the devices used in the northern California school district in 2005, for example, had none) means students are vulnerable to tracking and stalking off-campus.  School-issued RFID devices can also be easily cloned, allowing others to pose as them or steal their identity.  If a student’s sensitive personal information is stored on the RFID device without effective encryption and authentication protections, identity thieves can remotely and surreptitiously scan the information off the RFID device and use it to commit identity fraud or worse.