Swiss school to trial digital trackers on its pupils

Teachers will be able to remotely monitor individual children or groups of them, and will be alerted if a child leaves the school grounds without permission

By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

A Swiss after-school care center is set to trial equipping children with trackers as a way to monitor their whereabouts on the school grounds.

At the Letten after-school care center in Birmensdorf, children will wear a magnetic wristband with a Bluetooth system that will allow the childcare staff to check where the child is; staff will receive an alert if a child leaves the after-school care center or school “without permission” during care hours.

According to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), the technology and equipment for the tracking system are being supplied by the head of the Letten after-school care center, Joel Giger, who founded a start-up called Companion last year and initiated the project in Birmensdorf. The company’s logo can also be seen on the school’s press release, made available to the NZZ.

The school administration does not see this as a problematic link, as its president Bettina Köhler told the NZZ. “Those responsible (…) at Birmensdorf school can gain new insights through the pilot project and at the same time offer the company the opportunity to test the product together with specialists on-site as part of the pilot project.”

The test at the Birmensdorf school will begin on June 10 with the third and fourth grades and will last until the summer vacations, the school revealed. The project will be extended to all classes between the summer and fall vacations. The test will then be evaluated and a decision made on the definitive introduction of the system.

It is up to the parents to decide whether they want their child to take part in the project or not. However, they must actively opt their children out. Tracking systems for children are not a new invention. GPS devices, which parents can use to locate their children at any time, can be ordered online at the click of a mouse. The number of such portable devices, also known as wearables, has increased significantly worldwide in recent years.

The cantonal data protection authority, however, is critical of the project. According to its spokesperson Hans Peter Waltisberg, data processing is proportionate if there is a “reasonable relationship” between the purpose pursued and the data processing. However, “a permanent localization of pupils does not seem necessary for the care of children.”

“It should be examined whether a Bluetooth wristband is the appropriate means of localization. For example, the fact that a wristband can also be removed must be taken into account,” he added.

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