ACLU Questions School Surveillance Efficacy

( – The American Civil Liberties Union is warning that surveillance technology employed by schools may do little to improve the safety of students but instead, could put students’ privacy at risk, Bloomberg reported.

Tech startups that sell surveillance technology to help schools monitor their students online have seen an increase in business during the pandemic lockdowns. However, according to the ACLU, the new surveillance tools come with a price.

According to a new report from the ACLU, 21 percent of students are concerned that the surveillance technology in their schools could track searches on abortion while another 18 percent fear their searches on transgender medical procedures may also be monitored, based on a YouGov survey conducted for the ACLU.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, Massachusetts Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren asked four of the biggest tech surveillance companies, Gaggle, GoGuardian, Bark Technologies, and Securly, to take steps to prevent their technology from being used to flag students searching for abortion resources.

In addition to their concerns about abortion, the senators have also expressed concern that school surveillance technology could unfairly target minorities.

The companies say the surveillance tools are effective at preventing violence, abuse, and self-harm.

In its promotional material, Gaggle claims its surveillance tools can effectively prevent suicides and school shootings, while “limiting bullying and harassing,” according to the UK Guardian.

However, ACLU senior policy counsel Chad Marlow, the author of the report, said the surveillance tools sold to schools “lack any independent, verifiable evidence” that they work to help students stay safe. Marlow added, “Fear of harm creates actual harm.”

According to the YouGov survey featured in the report, students said the new surveillance tools have left them with a degraded level of trust in school administrators and teachers.

In its report, the ACLU recommends that school districts employ effective tools to protect students, including providing hall monitors, mental health and guidance counselors, and doors that lock from the inside.

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