Mon, Oct 15, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Students protest `invasion of privacy'

TRACKING A simple swipe of the RFID card can record a child's attendance as well as eating and spending habits, which activists say treats students like criminals

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Members of the High School Students' Rights Assocation hold up the new multi-function radio frequency student ID after launching a boycott against the mandatory use of the card. They claim the card will keep students under strict surveillance.

PHOTO: CNA

The new multi-function student identification card is an invasion of privacy and should be banned from all high schools, a group of student activists said yesterday in Taipei, kicking off a campaign to boycott the mandatory use of the radio frequency identification student cards required by Taipei City's Bureau of Education.

"The system is useless except to keep students under strict surveillance like convicts or animals," said Wang Hao-zheng (王顥中), secretary of the High School Student's Rights Association (HSRA), which is spearheading the campaign.

Wang said the card's attendance tracking system is a violation of the Personal Protection Law (個人資料保護法) and should be debated further before being forced on students.

Last month, the bureau began asking all high schools in the city to replace their traditional student ID cards with the new RFID system. A simple swipe of the RFID card can record a student's attendance as well as his or her spending habits. For a fee, the system can even send text messages to alert parents if their child is absent or tardy.

Parents and teachers can also download the student's recent activities, including what they bought at the cafeteria and what time they arrive at school.

The idea, the bureau said, was to reduce student's burden of having to carry a variety cards since the new card can be used as a library card, electronic wallet and a metro card. The bureau said the card does not contain a student's personal information and that students are not be required to use the card during the initial period.

"That's a blatant lie. Although the bureau says it only encourages the students to use the system, it lets school administrations decide whether to enforce the system or not. Which school would dare to go against the bureau?" Wang asked.

Rebecca Lee (李佩欣), another HSRA member said the new system, which cost NT$50 million (US$1.5 million) to set up, is an extravagant waste of money. The money could be better spent elsewhere, such as on classroom lighting, rather than on a "useless system," she said.

A recent high school graduate surnamed Teng complained the system often makes mistakes and that he had received demerits for being tardy or absent even though he had been on time and was in class. Sometimes he ran late to class because he had to wait in line to swipe the card as there are not enough machines at the school, Teng said. The new card is also more expensive than the old student ID, he said.

Another HSRA member voiced concern that the bureau might sell information on students' spending habits to marketing or consumer research firms without the students' permission.

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