Friday, 26 October 2012
Technology can be super awesome – but it can also be really scary. One of the latest retail trends uses modern technology to embed chips in products so that they can be tracked during shipment and in store. The chips are called RFID chips short for radio frequency identification (it's featured to the left). The goal is for marketers to be able to track where you are with a product, once the chip passes a sensor you’re tagged. It’s stalking to a new level. It’s creepy enough in your handbag, but what’s even stranger is that some parents want to embed the chips in their children like tracking devices.
A school in California is already doing it – they use the chips to take attendance and to track what meals students choose at lunch time. The potential for research is evident, you could use the data for something as simple as learning which lunch time specials are more popular, or you could use it to track a student’s movement throughout the day to determine if the child is hyper active. Another bonus is that using the chips to take attendance cuts down on wasted time in the class room, the California institution says that use of the chips is set to provide an additional 3,000 hours of instruction per year. That’s a lot of extra time for students to learn, and hey isn’t that what school’s all about? Another school in Missouri is using RFID chips to track its school bus system in order to ensure the system runs smoothly. A school in Texas uses the system through student ID cards to track a student’s movements through the campus.
The technology has a ton of positive advantages but aside from all the benefits the chips come with some concerns. Parents still have concerns (and rightly so) about their children’s privacy. How long can the chips store the data? Where does the data end up? It all depends on whose recording it and for what purpose. Some systems that focus merely on capturing behavioral data of students track individuals through meaningless ID numbers others create full profiles. So the privacy level depends. Some have suggested that using the chips to track students is an equivalent to treating them like a herd of cattle and if you’ve got a really detailed system in place it’s hard to disagree. After all RFID would give you a complete mark up of every step the child took – it’s kind of crazy.
How the child carries the chip is also up for debate. Currently the chips have been embedded in student ID cards, or on bracelets, but certain schools have even embedded them in school uniforms. Scientists have even been talking about embedding the chips in children’s skin in the near future. It sounds like a freaky-science fiction movie meant to go wrong if you ask me. But it’s also got its benefits, if a kid was kidnapped or ran away RFID can help find them. Several companies believe that the practice will become commonplace, and among the believers is giant AT&T. But if we get too comfortable with the chips and it becomes a norm amongst students and the overall population, who’s to say the chips can’t eventually be used by the government or even corporations to track consumers everywhere? Would there be regulations instituted for the sake of privacy?
What do you think? Would you want your kid tracked by RFID?