International Intonation: Sept. 19, 2012

Mark Hendricks, Contributor Ω

RFID Tracking of Students

To combat slipping attendance records, the Northside Independent School District of Texas has approved the tracking of their students by radio frequency identification tags.

The tags are small micro-transmitters, about the size of a grain of rice, which constantly broadcast a radio signal. The tags are used for either signalling, or as is the case with the students, for tracking.

Students of two Texas high schools, as well as all special-education students, are having tags placed into their student ID cards for a trial run. These tags will allow whomever the school district has monitoring the system to instantly be able to locate any student anywhere on campus.

Some district students and parents claim this is an invasion of privacy.

The school district doesn’t see it this way. They see the tags as being akin to security cameras. The district claims the tags will help locate students during role call to get more accurate attendance records. State funding for schools is partially based on student attendance so the school district is banking on this change leading to an estimated $2 million increase in funding.

This is not a purely financially motivated move, student safety is also being considered. By knowing where every student is in the school, the district claims they can increase the safety of all students.

“Within the four walls of Jay High School and Jones Middle School during the school day, we will always know where those kids are,” Pascual Gonzalez, district spokesperson, told

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Facebook shares down nearly 45 per cent

Facebook has become an invaluable tool in students’ daily lives; it’s hard to remember a time without it. But what will the future hold for the social media giant? Investors aren’t certain, as evidenced by a down-and-up and down again stock-ride that has left Facebook shares down 45 per cent since their initial public offering in May.

With nearly a billion users and revenues of $7.6 billion from the second quarter of 2010 to the second quarter of 2012, Facebook is the heavyweight in the social media game. So why did stock prices fall? What does this mean for the future of Facebook?

The answer to why stock prices fell is two-fold.

An extra 1.9 billion shares that were locked up will soon be released for public purchase. Basic economics suggests as more shares of a company are issued it lowers the overall value of each share. In simple terms, the more shares there are, the less each is worth. Even though the shares haven’t been issued yet, the stock market is really about future expectations. We’re already seeing the result of these as-of-yet unissued shares hitting the market.

The second reason tells us how Facebook is likely to change in the future. It has to do with investor doubt in the financing model of Facebook. As Facebook is free, its revenue comes from those little boxes to the right of the news feed that are just begging to be clicked – advertisements. Companies pay for their placement and that is where Facebook makes the bulk of its money, with a little (relatively speaking) on the side coming in from those Facebook apps that ask you to spend real money.

The problem is that people are increasingly using mobile devices as their primary method of accessing Facebook. Facebook on mobile devices currently doesn’t have advertisements, which means no ad-revenue. The more people use Facebook on their phone the less visual exposure ads on Facebook get; the less visual exposure, the less that ad space is worth.

This is a problem looming over the head of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO. After three months of silence and stock prices plunging nearly 50 per cent, Zuckerberg told shareholders the issue of generating revenue from Facebook on mobile devices is something that needs to be addressed.

This means changes for all of us who regularly get our daily dose of Facebook from phones or tablets. While Facebook isn’t likely to disappear from mobile devices anytime soon, the fact is the way Facebook offers its mobile service will have to change for Facebook to retain its levels of profit. As Zuckerberg said at the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference in San Fransisco: “We’ve transitioned and are now a mobile company.”

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