Gaggle is one of a handful of creepy companies that sell surveillance software to school districts, which monitor every keystroke and click on school networks — they're the latest evolution in spy-on-kids tech, which started off by promising that they'd stop kids from seeing porn, then promised they could end bullying, and now advertise themselves as a solution for school shootings, under the banner of being a "Safety Management Platform."
Gaggle has plenty of competition from the likes of Securely and Goguardian. The whole sector has undergone a massive buzzword-compliance overhaul and added "AI" to their products, using algorithms to decide which student keystrokes are worthy of being flagged as suspicious.
But Gaggle appears to be unique in promising to help school board detect unrest among teachers so that the wave of teachers' strikes can be headed off by management. In a deleted blog post, Gaggle wrote, "Think about the recent teacher work stoppage in West Virginia. Could the story have been different if school leaders there requested search results for 'health insurance' or 'strike' months earlier? Occasional searches for 'salary' or 'layoffs' could stave off staff concerns that lead to adverse press for your school district."
It's a great example of the shitty technology adoption curve: first we use creepy technology against people who don't get to complain, like schoolkids, then, once it's normalized, we work our way up the privilege gradient, inflicting it on teachers, then everyone.
Avoiding bad press and preventing teacher strikes have little to do with keeping students safe, but the implied message from the post is clear: Gaggle's clients are administrators, not the students or teachers.
The concern, however, is that students' protection is coming at the expense of their privacy. As kids spend more of their formative years online, they also need safe digital spaces to explore their own identities.
"Suppose you are a kid considering suicide and you want to write a diary about it or talk to your friend about the feelings that you're having, but you don't because you're afraid you'll be turned into your parent," Keller said. "I'm not sure that's a good outcome."
When we start monitoring kids' behavior from a young age, Keller believes it can set a dangerous precedent. As adults reckon with issues of privacy and data protection, she believes kids must also learn what it means to give companies access to their personal information.
Schools are using AI to track what students write on their computers [Simone Stolzoff/Quartz]