School tracking systems present ethical, cybersecurity concerns
- The technology used to track students and gather data in schools today raises a number of ethical concerns around privacy alongside the cybersecurity risks, EdSurge reports.
- Entryway scanners have received criticism due to their disproportionate use in schools with high minority populations. FERPA laws around parental rights to security camera footage are murky, every behavioral violation is recorded in databases and (in some cases) in-class cameras, and filtering tools capture all searches and even any text typed.
- These scenarios and more present a risky scenario, privacy blogger Bill Fitzgerald tells EdSurge, noting that an Equifax-like breach could compromise records including "students’ browsing history, the search strings of the school counselor or geolocation of all students in the school."
The cybersecurity issues posed by the sheer amount of data collected by students is daunting enough, but such an environment can have a stark impact on school climate as well. With the attention given to stemming the school-to-prison pipeline in recent years, it's worth considering that the presence of scanners at every entryway coupled with security cameras — not just in halls, but also in classrooms — can create a prison-like atmosphere. Even the presence of bells, which some schools have abandoned in recent years, has been tied to this sentiment, with Rancho Mirage High School (CA) Assistant Principal Chris Calderwood telling EdSource recently, "The only places that have bells any more are prisons and schools."
While security is key, schools should feel like a welcoming environment. But as EdSurge notes, some of the privacy implications with school-issued devices have become downright creepy. The publication notes that there are few restrictions on how cameras on school-issued devices are accessed by faculty or law enforcement, with a recent ACLU Rhode Island report including an image school officials took via a student's device, showing him sleeping at home.
Is this really the kind of environment that will produce the best outcomes possible for students?
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