PRIVACY: Prohibit Location Tracking of Students (HB 2386) (2013)

In November 2012, a student at a Texas school was kicked out of school for failure to wear a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag that the school had distributed for tracking attendance. RFID tags are tiny computer chips that are more commonly used to track everything from cattle to commercial products moving through warehouses. The National ACLU has been commenting on the use of RFID technology since 2005, concerned that privacy and data security issues may well outweigh any potential benefit.

Hearing of the Texas example, Representatives Phil Barnhart (D-Central Lane and Linn Counties) and Lew Frederick (D-Portland) and Senator Betsy Close (R-Albany) were concerned, as well. They introduced HB 2386 to protect the privacy of Oregon students. The bill outlawed completely the use of RFID location tracking of students in Oregon schools.

We lent our strong support for the bill and it moved through Committee and off the House floor by a unanimous “yes” vote. With opposition from TechAmerica, an advocacy group for the technology industry, and less appetite on the part of the Chair of the Senate Committee on Education and Workforce Development, Senator Mark Hass (D-Beaverton), for an all-out ban, the final version of the bill required instead that the Oregon Department of Education set up administrative rules for RFID technology in schools.

If any districts express interest in using the technology (no districts have done so, to date), their interest will trigger the rulemaking, which must set up provisions for the privacy of students and security of the data.

Though we were not successful in including in the bill a provision to require all location data to be deleted after a certain time period, we were successful in inserting a requirement that parents and students be notified of any use of the RFID technology and that they be provided an opportunity to opt-out of using it.

If and when Oregon districts decide to move forward with this technology, we will be monitoring the use closely and work to influence the details of any administrative rules that guide their use. In the meantime, it was reported in July that the Texas school mentioned above has decided to abandon its use of RFID technology because the “smart ID” tracking badges had virtually no effect on student attendance.

Vote: 58-0-2 House, 28-2 Senate
38-21-1 House concurrence