Schools Allowing Apple To Spy On Your Kids — These Lawmakers Want It To Stop

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You know that iPad your school has given your kid to use? Apple is using it to collect data on your children and market to them, according to privacy advocates. “It’s a goldmine to be able to use that (data),” said Rep. John Lesch (DFL). “You get them young, that’s really worthwhile. You know their prime spending years for technology are going forward.”

Privacy expert Matt Ehling says the St. Paul Schools iPad consent agreement with Apple allows the data to be gathered. “It states that Apple can gather student information. They’re required in many instances to submit their actual name and date of birth. That goes to Apple computer and then Apple is able to compile a marketing dossier based on the activity of that student.”

Ehling says the agreement isn’t uncommon, but calls it “ethically and legally problematic.” “It’s essentially the government using their power to coerce individual students into data sharing arrangements with private companies.”

A copy of the agreement parents must approve for their child to use a school-provided iPad backs up what Ehling says. However, the agreement is clear that personal information “will not be shared with third parties for their marketing purposes.”

Related Story: How To Avoid Giving Your Kid’s Private Data To Apple

Keeping student data private has become a bigger challenge with new technology, says Rep. Peggy Scott (R). “The highly sensitive student information that used to be stored in a file cabinet in the principal’s office is now being uploaded onto remote third-party servers called student information services (SIS).” The information includes student grades, social security numbers and disciplinary records. Scott says the barriers to third parties accessing that information are “frequently weak or nonexistent.”

Scott says computer devices provided to students also allow the school and third parties to monitor what students do as well as remotely activating the device’s web cam and reviewing its search history.

A nation-wide push to fix the problem

A bi-partisan group of Minnesota House and Senate lawmakers announced plans on Wednesday to introduce six bills to protect privacy. Four of them are focused on schools and students.

The bills would

  • Require stronger protections on how and where students’ private data are stored.
  • Create stronger privacy protections for students who use school-issued computing devices (such as tablets or laptops).
  • Give students the same privacy protections regarding their personal technology devices that all people are given when not on school grounds.
  • Protect students’ privacy on social media, and ensure schools cannot force students to give them access, except under certain circumstances

Another bill would protect employees’ social media accounts, by prohibiting employers from forcing employees or job applicants to provide access to their accounts. Another bill, called the Minnesota State Electronic Communications Privacy Act, would modernize current law to ensure that there are reasonable privacy protections for individuals’ electronic data.

The legislative package is part of a national push from the American Civil Liberties Union to increase privacy. Legislation is being introduced in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Those states are Alaska, Alabama, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Video at top: comments about the student data and computers.
Video below: entire news conference

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Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

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