Keeping an eye on the legislature, I stumbled across a bill by two mid-valley legislators who are trying to keep us from slipping down another notch on the descent to a total surveillance society.
Last fall, the national news started reporting that a few schools in Texas and elsewhere had begun requiring students to wear so-called radio frequency identification devices while at school. The idea was to make taking attendance easier. As soon as students entered the building wearing their ID tags, their presence would be noted. This was said to be especially important to schools whose funding depended on daily attendance, as it does in Oregon.
You’d think students could easily defeat a system like that by taking off their tags and stowing them in their lockers before ditching class for the rest of the day. But evidently the system has some way to detect or prevent that kind of trick.
Now, do we want our young people to get used to the idea that the authorities can track where they are at all times? State Sen. Betsy Close of Albany and Rep. Phil Barnhart of Eugene don’t think so. They are two of the sponsors, along with Rep. Lew Frederick of Portland, of House Bill 2386. That bill would prohibit Oregon schools from requiring students “to wear, carry or use” any item with a radio frequency identification device if it’s used to locate or track students or to take attendance.
These legislators — one Republican and two Democrats — have an important point. We already live under almost constant surveillance — from cell phone signals to security cameras. If we take our privacy half-way seriously, we should resist further moves in that direction, especially where the next generations are concerned. And this bill does just that. (hh)