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Many governments invite schools to invite companies to snoop on students
Richard Stallman, 2022-06-01

Human Rights Watch studied 164 software packages and web sites recommended by various governments for schools to make students use. It found that 146 of them gave data to advertising and tracking companies.

The investigators were thorough and checked for various snooping methods, including fingerprinting of devices to identify users. The targets of investigation were not limited to programs and sites specifically "for education" — for instance, they included Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

I expect that each package collected personal data for its developer. I'm not sure whether the results counted that, but they should. Once the developer gets personal data, it can provide that data to advertising profilers, as well as other companies and governments, and it can engage directly in manipulation.

The recommendations Human Rights Watch makes follow the usual approach of regulating the use of data once collected. This is fundamentally inadequate; personal data, once collected, will surely be misused. The only approach that makes it possible to end massive surveillance starts with demanding that the software be free. Then users will be able to modify the software to avoid giving real data to companies.


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