Some schools are putting GoGuardian software on the computers students use – and more.
A brief description:
“GoGuardian products allow teachers and administrators to view and snapshot students’ computer screens, close and open browser tabs, and see running applications. GoGuardian can collect information about any activity when users are logged onto their accounts, including data originating from a student’s webcam, microphone, keyboard, and screen, along with historical data such as browsing history. This collection can be performed whether students connect from school-provided or personally-owned devices. [bolding mine] Some parents have raised privacy concerns over this data collection, stating that ‘This is essentially spyware’.”
I am not a student right now, and I don’t have any kids in school, so I am looking at this situation as someone who is concerned about civil rights, even those of minors.
To me, this looks like an egregious violation of personal liberty. If I was a student, my highest priority would be to disable this software (or avoid using the school’s equipment), just on principle. I have no doubt that it could be done; today’s high school students are smarter than today’s adult software developers.
Before we discuss how to disable, can I get a ruling from one of our Esteemed Mods (May They Live Forever)? AFAIK there is no criminal law prohibiting such action, although it undoubtedly violates civil agreements. Can we talk about this on The Dope?
When my kids start using computers, if the school hasn’t installed Spyware on their computers I certainly would (and if the school had, I’d want access to it). When I was a kid I was mostly unsupervised on the internet, and in hindsight I can see a few bullets that I dodged; and the dark parts of the web have only gotten worse since.
My wife is a teacher, and my understanding is that GoGuardian is only used when the kids are, say, taking a test, or during distance learning. It’s used so that you can tell when a kid goes on YouTube or launches a game during class instead of paying attention.
The school does have a different type of security software that monitors searches etc even after hours (it’s possible that GoGuardian does this too, but they don’t use it for that). This software will automatically text the principal, even in the middle of the night, in the event that a kid is looking up something like suicide methods using a school computer. Apparently this has allowed a timely intervention in two cases this year, so I’m all for it.
Eta: kids have also gotten in trouble for looking up porn on their school computers. Again, I’m totally fine with that. It’s a good lesson for the real world; if you look that stuff up on your work computer, you’re getting fired…
I understand your concerns and can see the attraction of monitoring kids to detect things like suicide attempts. You could say the same things about monitoring adults, as adults have been known to commit suicide, not to mention criminal activities. Yet to monitor adults like this usually takes a warrant or court order.
If I were a kid nowadays, I wouldn’t stand for this if I could defeat it, just on principle. Kids have rights, too.
A 7yo might have need for Big Brother watching; a17yo, not so much. It would be inappropriate to lump these ages together.
An adult is also allowed to buy alcohol or cigarettes, have sex with other consenting adults, make medical decisions on their own, etc; children aren’t allowed to do any of those things. Do you think they should be?
And I’ll note that my employer monitors my internet activity when I use the laptop they provided me from home, or even when I connect to the office VPN network from my personal computer, all without a warrant.
My “employer” (not really, but someone I work for) recently gave me a laptop to use for his business, something I had requested so I would keep my activity for him as separate as possible from my personal work or work for other clients.
I doubt that he installed any spyware on this computer, but I believe in taking no chances, so I wiped out the entire OS and reinstalled it from scratch**, just in case. No matter how justified it might be, there is nothing in my contract that permits such monitoring, clandestine or otherwise.
** I am aware that some rootkit software can survive an OS reinstall, so I replaced the main boot drive with one of mine first.
Yeaaaah, if I (or the vast majority of people working in the tech industry here in Corporate America) did something like that, we’d be immediately fired and probably have to pay for the laptop we busted out of pocket too.
Sorry if this is a derail, but this strikes me as an interesting example of a 21st Century class divide.
I don’t have an “employment agreement”. I was hired, and given an Employee Handbook, which outlines my employer’s policies and procedures.
When my office got a new network printer, I couldn’t even install the new driver on my work computer - I had to contact IT for them to install it. Of course, I’m a lowly non-exempt, hourly peon. But my boss, an exempt salaried manager, doesn’t have any more permissions on his company-issued laptop.
If either of us wiped and reinstalled the OS on our work computer, well, for one thing, it would be kind of pointless because at that point we wouldn’t be able to connect to the company’s network anymore. But the other thing is, yeah, we’d be immediately fired for cause.
I find it interesting and informative that someone would just assume as a given that other people have employment agreements, and that those agreements would apparently default to not allowing monitoring software on company-issued computers and to allowing an employee to simply wipe the OS and install their own main boot drive.
Right, but the point is that even adults don’t have an absolute right to privacy when using someone else’s computer or even when connecting to someone else’s network. Why should kids who are using school computers or connecting to the school’s network be given rights to privacy that even adults aren’t?
Mostly, yep. You wipe and reinstall and you now have a worthless computer for the work you were hired to do at my source of employment (plus, we use whole disk encryption so you might just lock yourself out without the recovery key). And while you may not be fired when you slink in to ask for it to be properly reimaged so you can actually do your work, you will be put on an official “shitlist”.
Note that the app is only active when the student is logged in using their school account and the GoGuardian Chrome extension is active. (School provided Chromebooks of course require the student to stay logged in to their school account and can be set to have the app run at all times if desired). And the screen monitoring can only be done during class. Out of school monitoring, when it is actually turned on, just saves searches, filters out sites that meet certain criteria, and warns staff when activity related to suicide is detected.