Technology surveillance companies that sell their products to school administrators are creating a “digital dystopia” for U.S. schoolchildren, a new American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report concluded.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased school shootings, a $3.1 billion educational technology (EdTech) surveillance industry has scored huge profits based on the claim that its digital tools — including video cameras, facial recognition software, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven behavior detection technology, online and social media monitoring software and more — prevent bullying, self-harm and school violence.
However, the industry failed to back up that claim with evidence and instead used fear as a primary marketing tactic, the ACLU report said.
The ACLU — after conducting its own research and reviewing additional research commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice — found a “lack of clear evidence” that the products advertised by EdTech firms keep students safe.
Marlow told The Defender he “regretfully” watched school administrators and state legislatures opted to use funds on surveillance technologies “to keep our children safe.”
“These decisions haunt me,” he said, “because, as an ACLU senior policy counsel focused on privacy, surveillance and technology issues, I know full well that surveillance does not deter bad conduct, and it certainly does not protect our students.”
Marlow said the 61-page report reveals a “living surveillance nightmare” that is “inadvertently hurting our kids” by denying them access to important information, undermining their trust of adults and making it “too risky” to communicate certain thoughts they have.
“It’s the exact opposite lesson we should be teaching our students,” he said.
Greg Glaser, a digital privacy expert and attorney with Children’s Health Defense (CHD), praised the ACLU for rolling back the curtain on the EdTech industry’s tactics of marketing “constant” video surveillance as a supposed attempt to “dissuade criminality” among students.
“If parents could not only see but experience what their children experience in these hellish environments, there would be an exodus [from U.S. public schools],” Glaser told The Defender.