Tag Archives: Big Brother

Firm Grip: Gun “Control” Debate Needs Reframing.

18 Dec

The reactions on the events of December 14th started to get political almost immediately. Those wanting to create more restrictions via new laws and those wanting to expand gun rights took to the internet and airwaves to get their voices heard. The same general rhetoric was heard by both sides. Each getting responses from those stuck in the echo chamber of which belief system they fell under.

So far I’ve heard only one person start to really put things into perspective regarding the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school. What happened there is nothing less of heartbreaking. Parents sending their children off in the morning only to identify their lifeless bodies later is inconceivable to most people. Yet it is the reality of some of those parents. The talk has shifted to politicizing the tragedy. Rham Emanuel’s famous quote keeps ringing in my head:

You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.

What is being lost is the real perspective of this one event to public schools as a whole. We need to step back and ask ourselves this one question: How often are shootings like this happening in public schools kindergarten through high school? Some stats can be found on Wikipedia [1]. Once the colleges and universities are removed, the total number of school shootings total 77 since 1992. So in a 20 year span only 20 public grade school shootings have occurred, though none at the level of Sandy Hook. Of those 77, over half were at a high school with 50 incidents. There were 17 at middle schools and 10 at elementary schools. Until the tragedy at Sandy Hook, the largest number of injuries at an elementary school was the Amish school shooting in 2006 where 5 children were killed and the gunman killed himself.

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Handy ID: Palm Scanners Approved for Use in Schools, Hospitals

26 Nov

Students at Cranberry Station Elementary School in Westminster, Md., use a palm-scanning device to pay for their school lunches. (Photo: Jack Gruber, USA TODAY)

As if forced RFID tracking in schools wasn’t bad enough, now forced biometric usage is coming down the pipe. According to an article in USA Today, children attending schools in Pinellas County, Florida, are now able to purchase their public school supplied lunches with a swipe of their hands.

While there is something to be said for the convenience factor there are privacy concerns as well.

How does the technology work? The article gives a partial answer:

Using the same near-infrared technology that comes in a TV remote control or Nintendo Wii video game, the device takes a super high-resolution infrared photograph of the vein pattern just below a person’s skin. That image, between 1.5 and 2.5 square inches, is recorded and digitized.

How the system works at the point of sale is not given. Whether the scanned palm is encrypted and the information sent along a hard wired connection or wireless connection (and how that connection may be secured) is unknown.

Not everyone is a fan of the scanners. The parent of one student in a Maryland school is opting his child out of the program. From the article, Michael Webb states:

“My son is not using the technology,” he says. “I’ll be honest, I think it’s horrible. It’s an intrusion into our children’s rights.”

“I understand taking an iris scan of a pilot at an airport, so you know it’s the right pilot flying the plane” he says. “This is that level of equipment they’re installing in a line that serves steamed corn. I don’t think it rises to the level of steamed corn.”

Mr. Webb makes the keen observation of the fact this technology is put into elementary schools begins the desensitization process. He is absolutely correct. The younger children are when exposed over and over again to something they more they accept it as a societal norm as they get older. This idea was said best by Abraham Lincoln,”The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government of the next.”

For now the palm scanners are optional in some areas and cash is still allowed as an alternative. There is no telling though how long it will be until all students and adults are forced to use their own palm, eye or other body part to access products or services. The world keeps getting “braver” every day.

Source –

Palm scanners get thumbs up in schools, hospitals – USA Today

Backpacker Tracker: San Antonio School District to Track Students with RFID

26 Nov

Big brother is bigger every day. Even in the freedom loving, independent minded state of Texas, government encroachment into peoples lives and privacy continues to grow. There are parents and students who are not fond of the idea having the government know every move their child is making. However, the  Northside school district in San Antonio is not the first to implement Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking. [1]

According to a Wired article [2] there have been previous cases of public schools implementing RFID tracking of the students (no word yet if the teachers are tracked as well). From the article:

“A federally funded preschool in Richmond, California, began embedding RFID chips in students’ clothing in 2010. And an elementary school outside of Sacramento, California, scrubbed a plan in 2005 amid a parental uproar. And a Houston, Texas, school district began using the chips to monitor students on 13 campuses in 2004.”

Even in a state as liberal as California, there is a lack of desire for students to be tracked with RFID technology. Many people have no idea what RFID is or does. A quick web search brings up the first link to the Wikipedia article[3] on RFIC which states it is “the use of a wireless non-contact system that uses radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data from a tag attached to an object, for the purposes of automatic identification and tracking”.

As with any inanimate object, the use of this technology could be good or bad, depending on who is behind it, the purpose of its use and the execution. Why does a school district want to track students? It is a one word answer: money. Again, from the Wired article:

“If a student is not in his seat during morning roll call, the district doesn’t receive daily funding for that pupil, because the school has no way of knowing for sure if the student is there.

But with the RFID tracking, students not at their desk but tracked on campus are counted as being in school that day, and the district receives its daily allotment for that student.”

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Speed Reading: Growing Maryland License Plate Reader Debate

16 Nov

This issue is a mixed bag of right and wrong. As with many things, it’s not the technology which is an issue, but the way in which it is used.

In Maryland, the police have a piece of technology which allows them to scan license plates of cars which pass by their patrol vehicles. Once scanned the scanned information is run through the police systems to do a check on criminal records.

In a recent incident noted in the report, license plate readers, also known as an LPR, read the plate of a stolen car and alerted police. In this case the technology was clearly used in an appropriate manner and helped police without doing harm to the innocent public. The best way for technology and law enforcement to work together.

However, the new technology does not stop there. The new technology not only scans the plate, gets any information it can from the information but it also stores all of that information in a centralized database. That sent up red flags at the ACLU.

David Rocah with the ACLU pointed out, “As the data increases over time you get a more detailed picture of Marylanders’ movements. And that is information the government has no business knowing, absent some particular law enforcement need,”

The reason the police give for storing the information is it could help in future cases. While this may be true, the tracking and storing of this information by law enforcement, without the consent of the general public is very disturbing and should be addressed by lawmakers as quickly as possible.

Source –
CBS Baltimore

Oh Brother: Goverment Surveillance Growing says Google

13 Nov

There is some irony in Google commenting about government surveillance of the public. Google monitors, with questionable consent, its users and their actions. However, the public should not have to worry about the government watching it’s actions, digital or otherwise on a daily basis.

According to a post on the Google Public Policy blog, Dorothy Cho, senior policy analyst at Google notes, “one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise.” The amount of information people freely put out on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google +, grows by leaps and bounds daily. It’s part of the narcissistic culture we are a part of today.

The government is not surprisingly taking advantage of the freely offered data and sifting through it. This is not a problem or issue for most people. What is a problem is, as Cho reports, since launching the Transparency Report,  “government demands for user data have increased steadily”. In other words, the federal government has become more and more active in monitoring public activity, especially digital activity. It has also been actively requesting more and more information be removed from public consumption by deleting the information from search engines.

Some feel this is surveillance is necessary for the security. Those on the opposing side feel one gives up security at the cost of personal liberty and freedom. There is a very careful balance between the two which has to be walked by those with the power of both security and liberty. It is up to us, the people, who have the final say to bless or “curse” the decisions made by those we put in those positions of power.

Uncontrolled or unmonitored guardians of the national security will eventually succumb to the temptation of its power. The price of the public’s freedom from government tyranny is eternal vigilance. We must all do our part and speak up when we feel the balance between security and liberty has been crossed. From the report Google is keeping, it sounds like the line could have some toes on it.

Source – Google Public Policy Blog