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You can protect yourself if you school has surveillance technology



Pfefferkorn recommends that schools conduct an audit on their monitoring software. It could uncover what content is being tracked and how. Audits can reveal whether or not the software detects false alarms. Ask your school to inform parents and document what data they keep, where they store it, and how often they erase 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’re using your phone on your school’s Wi-Fi, or you’re using a school laptop at home, assume that everything you do is being scanned and logged by monitoring software. Have you connected your phone to the school’s laptop? You might have your photos scanned.  Nude photos sent from students’ personal phones, if plugged into school devices to charge, have triggered alerts to school administrators.

“You should assume that anything touching your school-issued device is going to be 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 either.

If you’re a student, practice the basics of digital privacy. Don’t use your school laptop or Wi-Fi to search for anything sensitive, such as medical information. Any type of content or data on school communication platforms can be identified and scanned. This includes your school email address, any documents that you upload to Google Drive at school, all online searches you make, images downloaded, videos that you view, as well as your school’s Google Drive account. Even content that is completely safe might be flagged by the algorithm: For example, the software Gaggle can flag keywords related to LGBTQ identity such as ”gay” and “queer” as instances of bullying.

You can trust only a few counselors or teachers, but your activity might be visible by others in school or the police. Don’t do anything on your device that you wouldn’t want them to see as well.

Others might advise students to “just use your personal device, on your family’s personal network.” It’s important to note that this kind of guidance isn’t accessible to all students. For low-income students, who might rely more on school technology, it may be more difficult to sidestep a school’s surveillance structures.

Mind Your Social Media

AI tools may also be used by schools to monitor social media posts. Students in college are particularly affected by this. While colleges generally don’t use content monitoring software, it’s likely they’ll monitor students’ social media for potential risk of violence or protest.

As you might assume your school’s device could be scanned and seen by an algorithm, so can your social media profiles. Even private accounts aren’t completely safe, says Kelley. Yes, even Finsta. If you comment on a public account, for example, that might be scanned and subjected to social-media-monitoring algorithms as well.

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