As the coronavirus started to spread across the world in early 2020, many at-home students were left out of the loop. Without any technology at home, school-supplied laptops helped lower income students stay educated at home.
However, as it turns out, school-supplied laptops were not just used for educating children at home. In fact, a new report reveals that those devices were also used to spy on children outside of school locations.
Teachers spied on children with school-supplied laptops
Reported by The Guardian, the majority of devices given to students in the United States were monitored. A research paper by the Center for Democracy and Technology explained that over 80% of surveyed teachers admitted that devices were watched.
The paper claims that teachers read private chats and emails and opened documents made by students. Using expensive surveillance software such as Bark, Gnosis IQ, Gaggle, and Lightspeed, student activity was watched to spot particular behaviours.
For example, the aforementioned software can ping teachers when certain keywords are used. These relate to consumption of pornography, drug use, eating disorders, and violent and suicidal thoughts.
The path to security breaches are paved with good intentions?
Despite overstepping on privacy, one school administrator believed that it was done with the best of intentions. According to the CDT, the surveillance was introduced to help protect students from self-harm. It's already been proven that the mental health of school children has hit all-time lows during the ongoing pandemic.
The administrator said:
"We knew that there were students out there having ideations around suicide, self-harm and those sorts of things. [W]e found this [student activity monitoring software]. We could also do a good job with students who might be thinking about bullying … [I]f I can save one student from committing suicide, I feel like that platform is well worth every dime that we paid for [it].”
Nevertheless, school surveillance using free hardware was kept secret from parents and children. Kids’ computers could be remotely accessed and viewed outside of school hours. It's a huge overstep for teachers to make, and one that parents and children will not feel comfortable knowing.