Several public schools have provided laptops, tablets and other similar devices to students to keep afloat the classroom learning amidst the pandemic. Sounds good to know that schools are going extra mile to keep students digitally connected, but the problem is, along with laptops came spying on students’ personal activities.
A survey from 80% of teachers and 77% of high school students, reports that schools had placed artificial intelligence-based surveillance software in their laptops to track students’ online activities and other stored information. This monitoring is occurring at taxpayer expense in schools across U.S.A.
For example, Student Surveillance Company Gaggle received $355,000 from schools officials in Minneapolis to use software until 2023. And majority of the incidents showed that the system identified students’ online activities outside school hours. In another instance, cops are sent to children’s homes, if system detects any foul activity by the students.
Is the surveillance doing harm or good?
Surveillance companies claim these tools keep illegal online activities at bay and also protect children from self-harm. However, privacy advocates, researchers have raised concerns over privacy breach. Companies often are reluctant to disclose how artificial intelligence programs work and the mechanism used to operate them. Privacy groups worry that these devices may hurt children by criminalizing mental health issues. It may cause emotional and psychological damage to students, disparately penalize minority students and languish online safety.
Even the best of the advanced artificial intelligence at times fails to extrapolate human language and context. That is why these systems identify many false positives rather than real problems. When students know their every move is being monitored, they are reluctant to share true feelings online, they become extra cautious about their online search and have negative impact to act and use analytical reasoning and exude self-confidence.
In addition, these surveillance systems also raise students’ cyber security risks. Companies compel students to install root certificates in their devices, which operates as a security “master certificate” to have the entire control on the device security. Moreover, such tactic of forcefully inducting certificates is equated with autocratic moves taken by some country’s government to control their citizens.
Thousands of schools worldwide use this software to keep a tab on students, making them vulnerable and allowing hackers to invade over students’ privacy. The susceptibility permits hackers to monitor students’ laptops, webcams and microphones.
Subsequently, this led to stole of 444,000 students’ personal information that includes their names, emails and contact numbers in July 2020, via online hacking. The personal data was later leaked online. It’s time schools deliberate seriously on this matter that whether the intrusive vigilance is actually making students safe or more vulnerable.