Grooming Students for A Lifetime of Surveillance
October 24, 2014 12:04 PM   Subscribe

I doubt, however, that they are arresting them or launching drone strikes against them based on that information. False equivalence.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:19 PM on October 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

"The same technologists"? No evidence for this claim, it is just a shotgun accusation of hypocrisy.

"The NSA has nothing on" ed-tech tools that track learning goals and tasks?

I'm afraid this is some bullshit.
posted by grobstein at 12:24 PM on October 24, 2014 [13 favorites]

This actually seems like an interesting topic, but the framing of "NSA critics are hypocrites" is making me crazy.
posted by grobstein at 12:25 PM on October 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

. . . And of course, on the topic of "surveillance of students," there is the much more pressing, non-hypothetical threat of police organizations thoroughly infiltrating Muslim student groups in the United States.

I could read an article about this topic someday, but this one seems superficial, disingenuous, and alarmist. I'm afraid my opinion of "marketing and communications professionals" (like the piece's author) has not been improved.
posted by grobstein at 12:28 PM on October 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

The real issue is testing-based education versus more loosely run curriculum, and whether homework will matter as much as learning to prepare for the test. At the moment, all of the information management for students is the burden of teachers, like my SO who has to spend two or three hours a night checking work and then also logging notes and grade forecasts into a CRM.

I think that there is something admirable about following the student classwork experience in a way that allows the burden to be taken off. But, I do not think the software companies have figured out where the burden is intended to go. Schools will still need to buy the software at some point and already spend billions buying solutions, so some will buy and then be faced with the problem: do you pay a fee for informational access and additional fees for training to an external party or do you force your own staff to work harder for less money?

My SO and I can see where this is going to go already.
posted by parmanparman at 12:31 PM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

My hope is that as generation Y and millenals come into power we will see less judgements about deviance. These kids have grown up being exposed to the internet in all its strange glory.

I was born in 1985. My patents were early adopters of technology and so I my early teens I was making websites. And the truth is my parents had no idea what was on the web and yikes. But it made it easier for me to navigate and learn Aabout transgender issues when my friends came out. When another friend decided to do the furry thing for awhile it was just a bat of the eye.

The thing is that the Internet allows us to be more human (drink, talk about sex, blog, find resources) in a way that doesn't embarrass us. It's not something to judge over our a big deal that somebody said lewd things on the Internet because it is all over the place.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:52 PM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah I mean why even bother considering viewpoints like this when we can just sit here and cherry-pick reasons to dismiss the article and avoid discussing the matter at hand. We should definitely not stop to think about who reaps the political and financial benefits of these systemic structures of disempowerment.

I mean, "When we develop and use educational technologies that monitor a student’s every moment in school and online, we groom that student for a lifetime of surveillance from the NSA, from data brokers, from advertisers, marketers, and even CCTV cameras" is clearly irrelevant in on account of the "shotgun accusation of hypocrisy," and doesn't even need to be considered when there are "real issues" at stake.

Our Big Data overlords thank you for your support and distraction.
posted by frijole at 12:54 PM on October 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

I doubt, however, that they are arresting them or launching drone strikes against them based on that information. False equivalence.

No, the damage they do is much more insidious. Your data is gathered from every direction, bundled up and indexed, and sold to whoever is willing to pay. Oh, and if something is incorrect, they neither care, nor are obligated to make sure that the data is corrected.

It's telling that when the EFF does their "Who Has Your Back" survey, none of the questions involve responsible gathering of data by tech corporations.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:56 PM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think the issue at hand was excessive use of hyperbole, i.e. the statement "the education industry is more capable than the NSA" in the second paragraph. People who do that are worse than Hitler (See what I did there? It doesn't give you confidence in the rest of my comment, does it?)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:07 PM on October 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yeah, I'm simultaneously very skeptical of what the technocapitalists are doing with this stuff and not at all convinced by a majority of the claims made in TFA.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:14 PM on October 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

No, the damage they do is much more insidious.

Uh-huh. If you know so much about the full hyper-secret extent of the NSA's surveillance then why don't you tell us?

That's not to say the student spying phenomenon described in the article isn't bad, but the framing is atrocious.
posted by JHarris at 1:15 PM on October 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

A topic near and dear...
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a law put in place in 1974 to protect student academic records, does nothing to protect student data when it is in the hands of education technology companies. Instead, FERPA threatens to take federal funding away from schools who are found to have breached student privacy while it fails to mandate bare minimum security standards for the storage and transmission of student data.
It's not really FERPA's thing to dictate local Information Security Policies.

And from what I've seen, the schools' POLICIES do a good job of mandating effective controls.

The failure of the Board of Trustees, President, Senior Administration et. al. to oversee the Information Security Officer's fidelity in their duty to implement the Information Security Plan is the problem. And while it would be cool for the Ed Dept's Inspector General to crack down on it, isn't this trend something that's at the root of Penn State, UNC, etc. Indeed, isn't that kind of "cover-up" mentality behind the mandatory assault reporting legislation Senator Gillibrand has been promoting?
posted by mikelieman at 1:15 PM on October 24, 2014

Yes, some of the framing of the article was a bit much. But...

I glad these issues are being brought up. In some ways the school surveillance does impact them more than the NSA surveillance does and will.

While the NSA may be watching your every move, they don't discipline you (impacting your school records, college admission chance, etc) based on their potentially illegal surveillance.

Many schools, if they had their will would censor everything a student said on or off campus, prevent publication and actively punish even mild dissent. This has always been the case, but now they are being given a toolset that empowers them even more.

Many of us remember the general attitude and abuse of power that school administrators had in high school, but after were out of high school it doesn't personally impact us anymore (unless we have children in high school, but by that point many of us are hesitant to take the childs side or understand the impact this technology has on them).

Some of the examples in the article are breathtaking. If you are I were to install cam-capturing spyware on a high school students computer and view their at-home activity, we'd be branded as sex-offenders and jailed.

People learn things in high school - many things about society, their rights, and how they can be expected to be treated in the outside world after high school. "This dress code will prepare you for the real world, your adult job." "Getting up at 7am will prepare you for your adult job." "Get used to people telling you what to do, because that's what's going to happen in the real world - in your adult job". Certainly we have a generation of kids learning that they don't have any privacy in the real world - people with authority will take it all from them, and punish them if they try to take some privacy back (eg: Tor usage).

When I was in elementary school I used to think the teachers were the enemy. It wasn't until I got to high school that I realized that the administration was.
posted by el io at 1:21 PM on October 24, 2014 [12 favorites]

Yeah, I'm simultaneously very skeptical of what the technocapitalists are doing with this stuff and not at all convinced by a majority of the claims made in TFA.

The majority of the claims in the article are easily verifiable (court cases, newspaper accounts, etc). The technocapitalists are building and selling these toolsets. While there may be some unsourced claims (the selling of data - which is *probably* done in aggregate, but who knows), the vast majority of this article has better citations than the NYTimes, Economist, CNN/MSNBC/NYTimes/Frontline/whatever (Vox is great with citations though - yay citations).

Most of the awful behavior that is cited is done by the school administration and the technologists working for the schools (RFID monitoring, firewall content that disallows stuff you'll find in your crappy high school library, etc).

While the framing of this article (placing the blame on tech companies that enable the school surveilance state instead of the administrators of the school and said systems) may be a bit off, the claims are pretty meticulously documented.
posted by el io at 1:38 PM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Several facts that are necessary but not sufficient to prove their claims are cited, but several rather large logical leaps are made between those facts and the claims of widespread abuses. This isn't just bad framing, it's sloppy extrapolation from a few data points. These may be the only data points we have access to, and yes, I would be surprised if these companies weren't doing bad things given the amount of data they're collecting, but it's not helping the cause to overstate the case.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:50 PM on October 24, 2014

Speaking as an EFFer (though not I guess speaking as EFF), we're very very worried about the surveillance of young people as a vulnerable group, both as a damaging extension of mass surveillance in general, but also as a way to inure young people to the idea that their lives can and should be spied upon and data-mined as a matter of course. Schools are marketed to and buy into this idea, and parents too, and then they teach those ideas to their children. (If you want to see what that marketing looks like, take a look at the video clip in this article, where police officers are used by a commercial company to sell really dangerously bad keylogging software to parents).

While most of the people I talk to understand the link between these practices and the wider surveillance state, I definitely meet parents and teachers who do not make the connection, and actively dispute that spying on children is a violation of anyone's rights. I don't think what I see there is the hypocrisy the article describes; these people are mostly the customers of these surveillance tools, not the creators. I encourage anyone to spend time talking to parents who put keylogging tools on their own family's devices, and principals who think that the schemes mentioned in the article are acceptable.
posted by ntk at 6:47 PM on October 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

ntk: it would be awesome if you guys would put together a dev guide for people creating software for use educational institutions. I know folks working in this field, and they care about privacy rights - problematic practices is often inadvertent.

More than that, putting together a guide for the folks deploying such systems would be great. Including disclosure of what they are doing, and how to opt out, if possible. While I don't trust school administrators, they certainly don't want to make the front page of the NYT for stupid mistakes/poor judgments they made.

A guide for parents to try to figure out what their school system is doing would be useful as well; if parents know the right pointed questions to ask (during public hearings, even) they can help affect change through their advocacy.

I know, the EFF isn't a bottomless bucket of resources; all these things take time/resources. For the rest of us (who don't make software, aren't parents of children in school, and don't work in the schools themselves), we can always contribute to the EFF and tell them what particular causes we care about when we contribute. They take buttcoin bitcoin as well, if you don't want your name tied to an advocacy group.
posted by el io at 6:57 PM on October 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

While I don't trust school administrators, they certainly don't want to make the front page of the NYT for stupid mistakes/poor judgments they made.

Most of the issues aren't going to make the news. Getting people to even understand the whole policies ensure controls on identified risks thing is a challenge. Then getting them to understand the policy and their roles and duties regarding it is even more daunting. I'm having trouble right now getting the Rensselaer county ADA to understand this stuff to address the misconduct by the Information Security Officer at Hudson Valley Community College even after going to the trouble to draft an Information with the charges and facts laid out in a familiar form.
posted by mikelieman at 7:06 PM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

While I'll always always take your money, I'd also say that EFF has some core competencies but we're not good at everything, and for what you want, it might actually be better to support people who better understand both privacy and technology and the complexities of conversing with and reforming the public education system. (Just so I don't underplay what we can do: we would be far better litigating this to establish children's rights in a US public school system, reverse-engineering current tools to expose their bad practices, and even providing guides for affected teachers and children to identify when they're being tracked and organize among themselves. Guides for principals we would need a lot of help with.)

There's more than one privacy advocacy organization out there and some of them can take positions and develop relationships that would be more effective than us. We would be very happy to give them advice and help though. And if such an organization doesn't exist, I am happy to talk to people about how they might start one.

(US educational privacy is not my area of expertise so I don't know the targeted advocacy groups in this are, I'd just point to EPIC, Privacy Rights Clearing House and other broad privacy groups. I'll email Lee at the office and see who he would recommend.)
posted by ntk at 7:31 PM on October 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

And she would have gotten away with it, if it weren't for those meddling kids!
posted by mikelieman at 10:16 PM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was in an ed-tech class last semester, and I brought up the idea that spying on kids might have negative consequences, and every person in the class disagreed with me. I agree that kids are often not seen as having rights in the face discipline and protection.
posted by codacorolla at 7:08 AM on October 25, 2014

Well, kids can certainly learn from invasive technologies.

That authority figures are not to be trusted. That they will lie to you. That they will violate your rights in order to enforce arbitrary rules that have nothing to do with safety or education. That when they break the rules they don't face consequences. That 'zero tolerance' is a rule for those under their care, not for their own transgressions of law or decency.
posted by el io at 11:17 AM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Happy Halloween!
posted by homunculus at 2:10 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

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