ACLU challenges microchipping of preschoolers
September 7, 2010
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is raising questions over the decision by a Bay Area county to use microchip tracking program in their preschool centers. [California Watch].
At issue is Contra Costa County’s computerized child-tracking initiative called Child Location, Observation and Utilization Data System, or CLOUDS for short. In early July 2009, county officials started talking with AT&T and Dynamic Computer Corp. about using a portion of a $1.1 million stimulus grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to build such a system.
Last July, the first CLOUDS system had been installed at the George Miller III Center in Richmond, the largest of 19 Contra Costa child care centers providing free or reduced services under the federal Head Start program.
Approximately 200 students, ages 3 to 5, get assigned a V-shaped basketball-style jersey with a small electronic locator chip sewn into the chest area. Upon dropping the children off to begin the day, parents must digitally sign their child in.
The tracking device in the jersey starts to emit radio frequencies that get picked up by white boxes hanging from the ceilings. Those boxes relay the signal to a computer in each room and to a central administrative office on site. Once the computer receives the signal, each child can be seen as a “moving dot” on the screen. If a child strays out of their assigned area, an alert is sent to the teacher.
School officials say the microchip program is meant to enable teachers to focus more on classroom instruction by freeing them from filing attendance reports.
The ACLU is questioning why questioning why the county chose to implement radio-frequency tracking in a program exclusively serving low-income and disadvantaged families.
The civil liberties group is also questioning whether microchipping is an appropriate use of federal stimulus funds.