Schools and the cloud: will schools allow students to be profiled and advertised to in the course of their school-day?


Kate sez, "Technology companies are moving rapidly to get tools like email and document creation services into schools. This link to a recent survey of schools in the UK shows that use of such technology is expected to bring significant educational and social benefits. However, it also reveals that schools have deep concerns that providers of these services will mine student emails, documents or web browsing behaviour to build profiles for commercial purposes, such as serving advertisements. When data mining is done for profit, the relationship between the data miner and the consumer is simply a market transaction. As long as both parties are free to choose whether and when they wish to engage in such transactions, there is no reason to forbid them or place undue obstacles in their path. However, when children are using certain services at school and can neither consent to, control or even properly understand the data mining that is taking place, a clear line against such practices must be drawn, particularly when their data will be used by businesses to make a profit."

UK School Opinions of Cloud Services and Student Privacy [PDF]

(Thanks, Kate!)

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  1. In the US, the law requires kids (or their parents) to opt-in, and I get the impression enforcement is pretty strict.

  2. “Will schools allow students to be profiled and advertised to in the course of their school-day?”

    They would use children as a cheap and plentiful food source, if allowed.

    1. This isn’t about advertising to, it’s about extracting information from.

      In classic advertising, the intent is for students to be customers. That’s potentially problematic in it’s own right, but THIS is about turning students into /products/, which most would agree is a bit worse.

      1. Adults are already products, might as well get us all conditioned to accept it early on!

      2. Students were already viewed as potential ‘products’ as well.  This is corporations sticking their noses into the private lives of kids a little further, and more blatantly.  Will schools allow this to happen, for the money, or will they refuse?

        I’ll start with an article from 2005, and the interests of the Pentagon, regarding lagging recruitment:

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/22/AR2005062202305.html

        Then two more, both regarding who has access to the information since state law varies, and whether parents or students can opt out.

        http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/01/19/who-should-have-access-to-student-records

        http://www.occupy.com/article/gathering-student-information-grade-schools-across-america 

        My point is that while this data mining barely skims the surface of  information advertisers would like to gather on children (and future customers), advertisers can and do have quite a talent for extrapolating from the information that is available.  I think a better word for us to use in this discussion is ‘branding’.  Consumers are viewed as cattle and advertisers want to tell their clients they’ll own their consumer loyalty for life.

  3. We’ve pretty much cleaned advertising out of my kids’ school.  I slid myself into a position of influence, then persuaded all the other sliders to petition the governors and principal to kill all advertising stone dead.

    Inside the school boundaries, you’d be hard pushed to realise anyone advertises anything ever.  Science fairs, museum trips, concerts for kids – yes.  Soft drinks, other crap – no.

    Advertising in schools ain’t no good.  And monitoring behaviour patterns to optimise advertising?  Fuck no.

  4. Why are people drawing the line at schools? If we’re seemingly ok with it happening at every other juncture of our lives, why schools? If you’re going to oppose this sort of mining, oppose it. If you’re going to support it, support it.

    1. I think it has to do with the fact that kids aren’t considered by many to be “fair game,” along with the fact that school is compulsory, meaning most kids would be forced into this scheme.

  5. Also interesting is how the “does not eliminate objections” bar is missing from the graph entirely , and as presented, diminishes the magnitude of that part of the story (by limiting the graph to 50 percent).

    I would have constructed the graphic differently.

  6. So you’re suggesting it’s OK to allow for-profit use of student data if there’s notice? 

    On page 7 of the Safegov & Ponemon Survey pdf linked above: 

    [“Schools overwhelmingly recognise that data mining for profit by cloud providers is a threat to student privacy and strongly object to the practice. But some schools admit they are tempted to trade student privacy for lower costs. A solution to this conflict of interest is to let parents opt out of cloud data mining for their children.”]

    I can’t figure out if they’re saying parents should able to opt-out of the cloud all together or opt-out of for-profit use of data stored in the cloud.

    I think it’s the latter but looking for confirmation because US parents may think Safegov & Ponemon are saying they should be able to opt-out of the cloud.  

    They may in fact be saying that… help. 

  7. Are you saying parents should have the right to either allow or not allow the use of their children’s data for profit as long as they’re informed? 

    I’m asking because I want to make sure I am correctly interpreting this excerpt from Safegov & Ponemon PDF you linked: [“Schools overwhelmingly recognise that data mining for profit by cloud providers is a threat to student privacy and strongly object to the practice. But some schools admit they are tempted to trade student privacy for lower costs. A solution to this conflict of interest is to let parents opt-out of cloud data mining for their children.”]

    Are they saying let parents opt-out of the cloud or opt-out of for-profit use of data in the cloud? 

    I think the latter however want to make sure because parents might interpret as being able to opt-out of the cloud. 

    Maybe that is what what Safegov & Ponemon are saying. I don’t think they are but need to be certain. Thanks. 

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