Science & Tech

Creepy spyware-loaded school laptops exposed teens' private texts

Creepy spyware-loaded school laptops exposed teens' private texts
Is Amazon Spying on You?

An investigation into school-monitoring software has some people concerned that it could be invading students' privacy.

Some schools have installed surveillance software from companies like Gaggle and GoGuardian to school-provided computers to monitor student's online activities and keep them safe.

While the intentions are good, some are worried the software could infringe on the privacy of students.

In a recent article with Wired, an associate principal said that when a student's cell phone was plugged into the school-provided computer with Gaggle installed on it, it began notified educators of "Questionable Content" from the cell phone.

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Some of the content ranged from private text messages to nude photographs.

When the educators discovered the software monitoring student's cell phones, they asked students to refrain from plugging in their personal devices - rather than fixing the problems.

School-monitoring software has come under scrutiny recently for potential concerns over issues like the one reported with Gaggle.

Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) conducted an investigation into several student-monitoring software companies and determined it needed "federal action to protect students’ civil rights, safety, and privacy."

“Your company and other education technology companies have developed software that are advertised to protect student safety, but may instead be surveilling students inappropriately, compounding racial disparities in school discipline, and draining resources from more effective student supports,” Warren wrote in a letter to four companies, including Gaggle.

"We are concerned these products may extend far beyond the direction in federal laws to monitor online activity to protect children from exploitation and abuse.”

A report from the Center for Democracy and Technology found that monitoring softwares more often were used for disciplinary measures, increased student interaction with law enforcement, and escalated negative mental health issues.

The report also concluded LGBTQ+, low-income, Black, and Hispanic students were at greater risk for harm and disciplinary measures.

We reached out to Gaggle and GoGuardian for comment.

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