Textbook giant Pearson Education recently hired a web security company to monitor all posts on the Internet connected to the common core testing this month. In particular, the security company is on the lookout for student tweets about Common Core test questions. But, are they cyber-snooping?
The recent (March 2015) public uproar was immediate because, essentially, professionals were being paid to spy on children. The American Federation of Teachers is one of the most vocal opponents of online “cyber-snooping” of minors and has created a petition to stop Pearson Ed’s cyber-snooping.
It’s fairly common for kids (and adults) to share many details of their lives on social media and twitter. Sharing SAT and other standardized test questions via twitter is not a new phenomenon. But, where is the line drawn between a company protecting their intellectual property (the standardized test) and an invasion of a minor’s privacy?
California, Illinois, Michigan, and Utah have passed laws limiting cyber-snooping from K-12 to College and several other states are considering the same. However, most legislation in the process of becoming laws only protect “private” password protected accounts, and, most kids post test questions and other sensitive information publically (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram).
The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Legislative Exchange Council are uniting parents in the cause of protecting children’s browsing histories, to have agencies be more transparent about what information they cataloging, and of course, remove student names from raw data gathered.
But, is this really enough?
The truth is, it’s nearly impossible to protect publically posted data on the Internet. Twitter updates and Instagram photos are as easily accessed in China, Russia, and India as they are here in the states. While legislation can be passed to prevent cyber-snooping and data mining of persons under the age of eighteen in the United States, these laws will not protect your child internationally.
Like in George Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother is Watching. Instruct your children to (of course) not share standardized test information online, but also, teach them not to share anything that they are not comfortable having the entire world eventually know.
And then, tell them to share a little less just to be safe.
By Grant Bergland, Private Tutor