By Nathan L. Walls

Wired: 'Kids Are Back in Classrooms and Laptops Are Still Spying on Them'

Pia Ceres, reporting for Wired:

Now that the majority of American students are finally going back to school in-person, the surveillance software that proliferated during the pandemic will stay on their school-issued devices, where it will continue to watch them. According to a report published today from the Center for Democracy and Technology, 89 percent of teachers have said that their schools will continue using student-monitoring software, up 5 percentage points from last year. At the same time, the overturning of Roe v. Wade has led to new concerns about digital surveillance in states that have made abortion care illegal. Proposals targeting LGBTQ youth, such as the Texas governor’s calls to investigate the families of kids seeking gender-affirming care, raise additional worries about how data collected through school-issued devices might be weaponized in September.

The CDT report also reveals how monitoring software can shrink the distance between classrooms and carceral systems. Forty-four percent of teachers reported that at least one student at their school has been contacted by law enforcement as a result of behaviors flagged by the monitoring software. And 37 percent of teachers who say their school uses activity monitoring outside of regular hours report that such alerts are directed to “a third party focused on public safety” (e.g., local police department, immigration enforcement). “Schools have institutionalized and routinized law enforcement’s access to students’ information,” says Elizabeth Laird, the director of equity in civic technology at the CDT.

Schools concerned about keeping students productive and safe from school shootings and other potential harms have installed highly invasive monitoring software on school-owned devices issued to students that makes extraordinary and unproven claims about efficacy.

I get that screens can have tons of distractions and teachers probably need some assistance in keeping students focused, but all of this just seems over-the-top invasive against student privacy, particularly for students who don’t otherwise have their own devices.

The ease and comfort with which kids can get automatically referred to law enforcement is flat out shitty.