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School starts mass social media surveillance of students for their ‘safety’

Glendale Unified School District in California is paying $40,500 to Geo Listening to collect and analyze all social media public posts of 13,000 students . . . even if it was done off campus.

A California school district, citing it's for the children's "safety" excuses, hired a company to monitor students' social media posts even when the kids are not on campus.

Glendale Unified School District includes "31 schools and over 2,620 employees, serving 27,000 students in grades Kindergarten through 12th grade." The district is paying $40,500 for Geo Listening to analyze the social media posts of "13,000 students at eight Glendale middle and high schools."

"We do monitor on and off campus," school superintendent Richard Sheehan told CBS Los Angeles, "but we do pay attention during school hours. We do pay more attention to the school computers."

Geo Listening's Privacy Policy states that it monitors Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, Flickr, Picasa, Ask.fm and Vine." The company says it's all very legal and has a prepared answer in case you are wondering, But what about privacy? "The students we can help are already asking for you. All of the individual posts we monitor on social media networks are already made public by the students themselves. Therefore, no privacy is violated." The bold print emphasis was theirs. It "does not monitor email, SMS, MMS, phone calls, voicemails or unlock any privacy setting of a social network user."

Furthermore, in an explanation about privacy and social networks, Geo Listening wrote, "Most users below the age of 25 do not utilize the available privacy settings because they are seeking to be recognized for their respective posts. They have chosen to post in the public domain in exchange for popularity and a decreasing ability to communicate effectively face to face."

The service analyzes "frequency and severity of a student's posts that include indicators relating to bullying, cyber-bullying, hate and shaming activities, depression, harm and self harm, self hate and suicide, crime, vandalism, substance abuse and truancy." Although the information may be posted somewhere, I did not see how long the collected data will be stored. Maybe it's forever? Instead, the company linked to the FCC's Fair Information Practice Principles.

In theory, no one under 13 will be monitored because "Social media platforms are required by COPPA to employ age-gate restrictions prohibiting minors under the age of 13 from using the platform or creating profiles." However, Geo Listening "assumes that the age-gate processes of all third party websites are effective, and Geo Listening is not accountable for the faulty verification practices deployed by third party websites or social channels."

For people who do not want to be under social media surveillance, there is an opt-out process. "If you would like to ensure content that you post through a social media platform or profile is not monitored by Geo Listening, you should ensure that your social media posts are non-public."

For better privacy, use Bing cause the NSA doesn't bother to monitor it

Speaking of how not to be under digital surveillance, The Daily Mash posted a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that the NSA doesn't even bother to monitor Bing. Poking fun of Microsoft, the publication quoted an alleged NSA spokesperson as saying: "We monitored Bing for a bit, all we got was pie recipes, endless requests for the weather and entire emails typed erroneously into the search box. It was more annoying that useful."

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