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The Big Biz of Spying On Little Kids 111

theodp writes: "'The NSA,' writes POLITICO's Stephanie Simon in her eye-opening Data Mining Your Children, 'has nothing on the ed tech startup known as Knewton. The data analytics firm has peered into the brains of more than 4 million students across the country. By monitoring every mouse click, every keystroke, every split-second hesitation as children work through digital textbooks, Knewton is able to find out not just what individual kids know, but how they think. It can tell who has trouble focusing on science before lunch — and who will struggle with fractions next Thursday.' Simon adds, 'Even as Congress moves to rein in the National Security Agency, private-sector data mining has galloped forward — perhaps nowhere faster than in education. Both Republicans and Democrats have embraced the practice. And the Obama administration has encouraged it, even relaxing federal privacy law to allow school districts to share student data more widely.'"
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The Big Biz of Spying On Little Kids

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  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Saturday May 17, 2014 @10:56AM (#47025337) Journal

    This is fine if the parents agree to it. (Do they?) And as long as it is anonymized and not sold to Coke.

    Finally, applying science to learning at a more detailed level. What works, what is crap, what is overkill.

  • Wow! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Saturday May 17, 2014 @11:10AM (#47025427)
    We really need a third party - I'm sick of both of the Republicans and Democrats. They both suck!!
  • Re:Home schooling (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Saturday May 17, 2014 @11:19AM (#47025493) Journal

    That's like using "Do not track", and about as effective.

  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Saturday May 17, 2014 @11:23AM (#47025513) Homepage Journal
    First, when a kid is in the roll of the student, there is not much expectation of privacy. There is an limitation to those who are allowed to invade the privacy, but it is not like a 15 year old kid who surfs p0rn can complain to his parents of the school that they violated his privacy by spying on him, even if he bought the phone and pays the bill.

    This is obviously an exaggeration, but the point is the same. If a student is working on an assignment, she is always observed to make sure for on task behavior, or to make sure the process is correct. The computer is no different. One problem with computer as a educator is that many students don't really know how to use it as tool. They only know how to use it as game. It is the difference between a pencil as a tool to complete a worksheet, or a pencil as toy to throw or use to play sword fighting. Both are legitimate uses of a pencil, in the proper circumstances, and kids need to be taught to use it as the former for typical educational purposes.

    So depending on how the data is used the age of the student, it is perfectly reasonable, even beneficial, for software to be monitoring the students behavior. The act of monitoring, just like in the classroom, can positively effect the students behavior. Likewise, constantly monitoring the use and effectiveness of the material is called formative assessment, which is not only beneficial but also required if you are going to give a student the unique educational experience that everyone seems to be clamoring for.

    So this is not necessarily like Disney tracking every move of the six year old children. If this is a legitimate educational service, and they violate the privacy of students, even if the students are over 13 years old(and Disney is free to do whatever they want with 13 year old children), they are in violation of federal laws protecting the privacy of students. This does not mean they cannot collect data, it just means they are limited in how they can use it, and who can see it.

  • Re:Wow! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zenin ( 266666 ) on Saturday May 17, 2014 @12:30PM (#47025953) Homepage

    That's interesting. Especially given that the right have been driving the entire political landscape in the US for the last 30+ years. We're at the point now where we have three parties, "Batshit crazy extremist right-wing nuts" (The Tea Party), far right extremists (Republicans) and right-wing (Democrats).

    The reality is that Obama is solidly to the right of Reagan on nearly everything. Reagan, if he were alive to run today, would be denounced as a RINO and destroyed in the primaries. Hell, even if he converted to a Democrat he'd get denounced as being too liberal for the mainstream.

    America doesn't know what left or progressive is, given they've rarely ever seen a progressive candidate in much of the last century.

  • Re:big data,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by causality ( 777677 ) on Saturday May 17, 2014 @10:47PM (#47029493)

    Is there any analysis that shows the rewards of big data are not meeting the risk (ie dismantling the intrinsic built-in trust of a civilised society and the govts we elect to serve us)?

    A more cynical person might suggest that dismantling the trust is the reward some people seek. Divide and conquer is an old, venerable tactic used by both current and would-be tyrants everywhere.

    And yet strangely, the technique and how to recognize it is not taught as a regular part of every school's history or civics class.

    In a less dysfunctional society where at least a few important things are not run by sociopaths, "Divide and Conquer" (perhaps taught by reading some Julius Caesar), "Propaganda Techniques", and "Logical Fallacies" would be mandatory courses for every human being.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.