How to Protect Yourself If Your School Uses Surveillance Tech

Pfefferkorn also recommends asking your school to conduct an audit of their monitoring software, which could reveal what type of content the algorithm is tracking and how. An audit can show whether the software is really effective or whether it picks up false alarms. Encourage your school to accurately document and let parents know what they track, how they store and when they delete student data. Ask if you can have your child’s data deleted, or at least see what has been collected.

Act like you’re being watched, even after school

Whether you use your phone on your school WiFi network or a school laptop at home, assume that everything you do is being scanned and logged by surveillance software. Do you have your home phone plugged into your school laptop? The photos on your phone may also be scanned. Nude photos sent from students’ personal phones when plugged into school devices for charging have prompted alerts to school administrators.

“You should assume that anything touching your school-issued device is being monitored in some way,” says Jason Kelley, associate director of digital strategy at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation. Monitoring doesn’t stop after school or off campus.

If you’re a student, practice the basics of digital privacy. Do not use your school laptop or WiFi to search for sensitive data such as medical information. Remember that any type of data or content can be scanned and tagged on a school communications platform: your school email address, the documents you type into your school’s Google Drive, your online searches, the pictures, the You download the videos you watch. Even content that is completely safe can be flagged by the algorithm: for example, the Gaggle software can flag keywords related to LGBTQ identity such as “gay” and “queer” as instances of bullying.

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Even if you trust a handful of teachers or counselors, keep in mind that your activities could be seen by other adults at school or even law enforcement. Don’t do anything on your device that you don’t want to see.

Others may advise students to “just use your personal device on your family’s personal network.” It is important to note that this type of guidance is not accessible to all students. For low-income students, who may be more reliant on school technology, bypassing a school’s monitoring structures can be more difficult.

Watch your social media

Schools can also use AI tools to track social media posts. This is particularly relevant for college students. While colleges generally do not use content monitoring software, they are likely to monitor students’ social media for potential risks of violence or protest.

Just as you would assume that anything you type on your school-issued device can be seen and scanned by an algorithm, so assume your public social profiles can too. Even private accounts aren’t entirely secure, says Kelley. (Yes, even your super-locked-down Finsta.) For example, if you comment on a public account, that too can be scanned and subjected to social media monitoring algorithms.

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