Monday, May 23, 2016

“Learning to be Watched”:  What You Wish You Didn’t Need to Know about Who’s Tracking Your Kids

Do you let strangers into your home to go through your kids’ closets or toy boxes?  If someone just happens to come to the door and wants to ask your child nosy questions, do you welcome her in?  What about that person lurking on the edge of the playground—aren’t you supposed to call security?

If you’re a careful parent, you find these questions absurd: of course you protect your child from strangers.  Or do you/?

A powerful new study shows in vivid detail the many ways our children are being watched and profiled, not by a stranger we could identify in a line-up, but by the very tech companies our schools have contracted with to provide the software that is becoming the course content, the assignments, and the assessments in too many of our classrooms.    

This study gives chilling details of the way individual students just doing their homework online, shifting across different social media, are being tracked and exploited for commercial purposes.  It also brings to light the complex surveillance and marketing networks behind what appear to be respectable "educational" vendors.

The paper is full of detail and smart in an analysis that follows the money.  Every parent should read it and forward it to their child's principal, school board member and state legislator.  Parents concerned about their children's privacy as well as who is making decisions that allow strangers to prey on our kids so blatantly yet so covertly should start a conversation about who's tracking their kids.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

"In the National Education Policy Center’s 18th Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism Trends, Learning to be Watched: Surveillance Culture at School, Faith Boninger and Alex Molnar describe how schools facilitate the work of digital marketers. Google, for example, subscribes over 30 million students and educators to its Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and tracks students when they shift to Google applications not explicitly part of the GAFE suite (e.g., YouTube). Facebook tracks whenever its users browse to any page housing a “like” button, and uses that tracking information in its ad targeting systems."

Find Learning to be Watched: Surveillance Culture at School, by Faith Boninger and Alex Molnar, on the web at:

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