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Missouri RFID Ban Highlights Nation's Privacy Fears


Student privacy advocates are hailing a new law in Missouri that bans school districts from tracking students using radio frequency technology.

Last week, state lawmakers overrode the governor's veto of the bill.

The controversial technology uses radio waves emitted from tiny batteries, often embedded in a card or badge, to track the location of students.

The new law reflects growing national concern about electronic privacy in the wake of reports of massive government surveillance efforts through the National Security Agency.

It also shows a growing interest in student privacy as parents are increasingly questioning the kinds of student records that schools maintain electronically.

Last year, concerns over privacy led Colorado and eight other states to end their contract with inBloom, a start-up cloud service that stored student data for school districts. 

Also last year, one of the largest school districts in the country shut down its pilot RFID program that required students to wear badges with RFID chips at school. 

San Antonio's Northside Independent School District had hoped the badges would help it better count students for attendance in order to reap more state funding.

However, the program did not increase the attendance count substantially and drew protests from parents and privacy groups.

"The ultimate concern is that we don't want to turn into a surveillance society," Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, told CBN News.

"In our culture and our legal traditions the government doesn't watch you unless it has a particular reason to suspect that you are involved in wrong doing," he said.

In Missouri, lawmakers supporting the bill banning RFID technology said the legislation was necessary to block potential tracking programs before schools start investing taxpayer money into such technology. 

"We do not want this to become a mandate from our public school districts," state Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, said.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said he opposed the bill because the ban would take away a school district's option of using the tracking devices, which he said could help locate students during emergencies.

"Local school officials are in the best position to determine the appropriate use of this technology with their school districts," he said.

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