As of this academic year, every child in the first through twelfth grades should have been issued a Chromebook by the school. This completes an effort that was rolled out a couple years ago. These computers will enable students and teachers to share documents, data and other communications on a common platform.
The benefits and drawbacks of these computers have been discussed before. A Virginian-Pilot article dated June 1, 2018 (https://pilotonline.com/news/local/education/public-schools/article_43a977a4-602a-11e8-801d-4fa56b990bf2.html) reports that the technology enables teachers to obtain instant feedback on their assignments, and provide more individualized instruction. On the other hand, some school leaders questioned whether the $5.5 million cost per year (for the three-year replacement cycle) could be better spent elsewhere. The increase in screen time, and thus time away from face-to-face interactions, was also a concern.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Chromebook usage has not been fully explored. The Chromebooks will be able to collect massive amounts of data from each student, which Google will be able to sell to third parties. Such data includes:
* Personally identifiable information
* Location data
* Browsing history
* Contacts list
From this, a third party could amass a profile of a student’s attitudes, likes, dislikes, behavioral habits, political views, and other highly personal traits. This unprecedented invasion into the private lives of children is not only legal — it is happening with the full blessing of the U.S. federal government. Indeed, exemptions from the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that occurred under a previous administration have stripped basic defenses from third-party data mining.
Parents need to demand greater protections for the safety, security and privacy of their children. They should have the right to know exactly what information is being collected, where and for how long it will be stored, and to whom it could be sold. They should have the right opt out of certain data collection functions, and to disable the most pernicious components.