Privacy Law

Student's Lawsuit Tests High School's Microchip ID Policy; Will Religion Trump Need to Count Heads?


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Many adults have essentially thrown up their hands over the ubiquitous electronic tracking—via cellphones, computers and cameras strategically placed along the roadside and retail shelves—that has eliminated the concept of privacy as we knew it only a decade or so ago.

But a 15-year-old is making a federal-court fight out of her San Antonio high school’s requirement that students to carry identification cards implanted with microchips that track their locations through the day, from classroom to lunchroom to restroom and in the hallways in between.

Andrea Hernandez objects on religious grounds to the tracking in the suit she filed Nov. 30 with her father, Steve, reports the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). Attorney Craig Wood, who represents the school district, says the devices are intended to help the high school qualify for maximum government funding by keeping an accurate count of everyone who attends. They also potentially enhance security by quickly pinpointing anyone who isn’t authorized to be on campus.

Later this month, a judge is expected to hold a hearing on whether John Jay Science and Engineering Academy can transfer Hernandez to another school or must wait to do so until the merits of the case are decided.

As the Associated Press notes, the case has attracted some unusual allies:

How often do you see an issue where the [American Civil Liberties Union] and Christian fundamentalists come together? It’s unusual,” said Chris Steinbach, chief of staff for a state Republican lawmaker who is seeking to enact a law that would ban Texas schools from using the technology.

Ars Technica’s Law & Disorder blog also has a story.

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: “The Search is On” “2 Teens Get $185K, Lawyer Gets $425K in School Webcam Spy Case” “7 Retailers Settle with FTC, Agree to Stop Spying on Up to 400,000 Computer Rental Customers” “It Isn’t Necessarily Big Brother, But Somebody Is Potentially Watching, Virtually All the Time”

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