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Orange County Public Schools To Monitor Students On Social Media 166

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Orange County, Florida, is undertaking a sweeping effort to snoop on the social media communications of the county's public school students and staff, for the nebulous task of "[ensuring] safe school operations," and say they will use the software (at a license cost of about $13,000 per year) "to conduct routine monitoring for purposes of prevention or early intervention of potential issues where students or staff could be at risk to themselves or to others." The software they're using is from Snaptrends, which offers "location-based social media discovery." According to one of the comments attached to the linked story, there are monthly fees, in addition to the annual licensing cost.
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Orange County Public Schools To Monitor Students On Social Media

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  • Private Profiles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by D.McG. ( 3986101 ) on Saturday May 30, 2015 @05:48PM (#49806671)
    Anyone with a clue makes their profile private such that only friends may see their posts. Most children are told explicitly to do this by parents because of creepy stalkers. These clowns are actually receiving/spending tax payer's money to stalk. Illegal on so many levels.
    • Anyone with a clue doesn't use a site whose sole purpose is to datamine your ass. When will people begin to understand that Facebook is the enemy?

      Here, we have the nanny state stepping in, and Facebook cooperates fully. Facebook does nothing to block trackers, in fact, they ENCOURAGE trackers! I'm sure that Facebook is getting some kind of financial incentive for cooperating. If government doesn't offer incentives directly, then the companies like Snaptrends is passing it on.

      • I never said Facebook. Social networking includes Google+, Twitter, and dozens more listed here http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki... [wikipedia.org]
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by negRo_slim ( 636783 )

        Anyone with a clue doesn't use a site whose sole purpose is to datamine your ass. When will people begin to understand that Facebook is the enemy?

        Here, we have the nanny state stepping in, and Facebook cooperates fully. Facebook does nothing to block trackers, in fact, they ENCOURAGE trackers! I'm sure that Facebook is getting some kind of financial incentive for cooperating. If government doesn't offer incentives directly, then the companies like Snaptrends is passing it on.

        Well some of us live in the real world and can't just hide under a rock because, ya know, we need to interact with people for personal and professional reasons via popular social media sites.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          People like you are the problem. FB profiles are hardly appropriate for professionals. Email and a proper website shows that you care about running a business. Plus I see a ton of companies using fb to encourage people to spam friends for rewards.

          This isn't living under a rock, it's realizing that living in a glass house has no advantages for us.

          • People like you are the problem. FB profiles are hardly appropriate for professionals.

            Party invites, for normal people, are frequently on facebook these days.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Only if you work as "social media correspondent", or community manager, or some BS like that.
          In my work the only thing I need is email.
          I have a facebook account that's pretty locked down that I only use to get people email address when I need it.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 )

          Well some of us live in the real world and can't just hide under a rock because, ya know, we need to interact with people for personal and professional reasons via popular social media sites.

          This might be the most bizzaro statement ever issued on Slashdot. Exactly and totally wrong.

          Allow Ol to educate you. Facebook, is not the real world. Really, it isn't. Real world is meeting people face to face, doing things with them, kind of experiencing life. It's not old fashioned to avoid Facebook, it isn't being a luddite. Avoiding Facebook is the same as avoiding crystal meth.

          This is you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

          • LMAO @ the video - that really does look like a lot of people today!

          • We use Facebook at work. A lot. It's how reach thousands of customers.

            Face to face does not work so well when your 40k customers are spread over all of north america.

            • We use Facebook at work. A lot. It's how reach thousands of customers.

              Face to face does not work so well when your 40k customers are spread over all of north america.

              So if Facebook goes out of business you do too?

              • by cptdondo ( 59460 )

                Really? Seriously? That's just a dumbass comment.

                FB is a tool. Like any other tool. We use it because it works and it's cheaper than rolling our own.

                We use Wordpress too. And cloud email. And a whole bunch of other technologies.

                And if any one of them goes out of business we will find something else.

                • Really? Seriously? That's just a dumbass comment.

                  FB is a tool.

                  Knowing what I know about Facebook, My company would not ever do business with a company that relies on Facbook to communicate with their Customers. Facebook is not secure in the least. Not even a little tiny bit. There are much better, more secure, and intelligent ways to communicate with customers.

                  Call that dumbass if you like, Your business model is plain stupid and dangerous.

        • by Jawnn ( 445279 )

          Well some of us live in the real world and can't just hide under a rock because, ya know, we need to interact with people for personal and professional reasons via popular social media sites.

          No. You do not "need" to do those things anymore than the dozens of fuckwits I see every day driving, walking, eating, pissing, with their heads bowed down to their smart phone "need" to communicate in such an awkward medium. Do those services make certain things easier? Of course, but that's the deal - "Here's your 'easy', now give me your life. Oh, and fuck your privacy." That, my friend is "the real world".

        • Well some of us live in the real world and can't just hide under a rock because, ya know, we need to interact with people for personal and professional reasons

          Excellent point!

          via popular social media sites.

          Oops, this part of the post was completely unnecessary and only demonstrates one way, and a particularly piss poor and antisocial way to interact with people.

    • Anyone with a clue makes their profile private such that only friends may see their posts.

      This is a good advise (even better: don't post sensitive/private info... or just don't post!)

      Most children are told explicitly to do this by parents because of creepy stalkers.

      Well, "been told to do" and "actually doing what been told to do" are different things, especially in parents-children cases, but, anyway...

      These clowns are actually receiving/spending tax payer's money to stalk. Illegal on so many levels.

      I think that Orange County Public Schools will just monitor the "social media" for cases where the Orange County Public Schools are mentioned publicly (e.g. posts like: "i am going to kill every student of Orange County Public Schools", "some teacher of Orange County Public Scho

    • Privacy settings make no difference if the schools can go in as root.

      • What the hell are you talking about?

        • The system the schools use will bypass users security settings. How else do facebook make so much money off their users?

          • Citation Needed

            • Well, the fact that they are paying $13,000 per year in license fees strongly suggests that this software will give them access to information that isn't public.
              • " ... strongly suggests" is not a citation.

                Recall that all social media have terms of service that prohibit access to accounts by any persons other than the member.

                You are just starting some shit. RTFA and go to the web page of the software.

                The information they are accessing is public.

              • No, specialized software for niche audiences like government agencies (say, city administration or police departments) tends to cost that much, simply because they're selling to thousands, not millions (source: a relative who works in a small city IT dept).

                From what I understand, Facebook doesn't give anyone else the keys to users private data. Besides which, it's really not in their best interest to do so, financially speaking. They'll sell advertising rights to anonymized groups based on profile data, b

                • True enough. Here's the rub though:

                  Are you okay with people tracking your movements throughout the day?

                  Waiting outside the house with cameras, and following you to breakfast, and then following you to work, and waiting outside, then if you go out in the evening, sitting outside the restaurant, sending someone inside to watch what you order, watch you eat it, then pay your bill? Or go to a movie? Then return home?

                  All things you were doing out in public.

                  All perfectly legal - you were after all, out in

                  • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

                    Right.

                  • Who are you trying to argue with or convince here? Exactly where did I say I was a proponent of this scheme?

                    I'm not condoning either Facebook, the software in question, or the actions of the school board here. I'm explaining how services like Facebook operate - nothing more.

                    Besides, I'm pretty sure there are some laws against [victimsofcrime.org] stalking a person with a camera in public.

                    • Who are you trying to argue with or convince here? Exactly where did I say I was a proponent of this scheme?

                      If you read it, I never did. Probably because I wasn't accusing you of anything, it was just a point to get into the conversation.

                      Don't assume everyone is arguing with you personally.

                      Besides, I'm pretty sure there are some laws against [victimsofcrime.org] stalking a person with a camera in public.

                      And that is the comment I've been waiting for. Stalking. The idea of the Orange County School District hiring a minister of Rightthink to "protect" the students and staff is stalking pure and simple.

                      Now if there is some kid who's threatening to cause mayhem, I have no problem with other's reporting it. But the idea that eve

                    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

                      Well, if it teaches them that, then maybe the school is doing its job.

                      Seriously, most kids have no thought about how what they post will later affect them. If the school teaches them to be careful, and avoid letting "the man" know what they are up to, it may be performing an important social role....probably not the one it's intending to, however.

            • There's no citation needed. If the information is available, either it will be sold or it will be stolen.

    • Illegal on so many levels.

      Thank you. I was about to post asking how anything even remotely like this legal. What's next, monitor students by GPS on their phones, in and out of school, to "ensure their safety"?

      • If the software is only accessing publicly available information as advertised then what specific laws do you think are being broken?
        • by Sique ( 173459 )
          In most of the EU states, mining data on people and putting it in a database without the expressively given consent by each of the people in question is illegal, even if the data sources are publicly available.

          So yes, even credit rating agencies are only allowed to process data the person in question has allowed. Most contracts which are related to credits like mobile phone planes or opening a banking account thus contain wordings regarding the cooperation with credit rating agencies.

      • Illegal on so many levels.

        Thank you. I was about to post asking how anything even remotely like this legal. What's next, monitor students by GPS on their phones, in and out of school, to "ensure their safety"?

        There was a school in Pennsylvania that monitored their students useage of laptops. This by the way, included turining on the cameras. So they probably got to see a little underage teeny titty or worse. And yeah, the school district got in some hot water over that.

        It's really best just to allow teenagers to be teenagers, and not get to heavily involved in the crazy shit they do. I know that sounds weird in today's ultra reactionary safety culture age, but somehow we managed to grow up for millions of year

    • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Saturday May 30, 2015 @08:23PM (#49807293)

      Absolutely. Still, this will teach students a valuable life lesson. Prospective employers are probably going to pull the same sort of nonsense, so they had better start learning to watch what they say in public right now.

      Also... I'm obviously building the wrong type of software. I'd love to be able to charge $13K plus monthly usage fees for scanning targeted people on Facebook, Twitter, and a few other services for scary keywords and phrases.

      • Absolutely. Still, this will teach students a valuable life lesson. Prospective employers are probably going to pull the same sort of nonsense, so they had better start learning to watch what they say in public right now.

        Also... I'm obviously building the wrong type of software. I'd love to be able to charge $13K plus monthly usage fees for scanning targeted people on Facebook, Twitter, and a few other services for scary keywords and phrases.

        There is nothing new under the sun. It will teach kids how to bully without being direct about it; how to talk about suicide in a way a computer won't understand; how to mock teachers relentlessly while using code names. Human beings adapt to new rules--sometimes the adaptation is expensive and the result of painful lessons (much of the history of warfare, for example); other times it is fairly painless and done to avoid a teacher calling you in after school.

  • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Saturday May 30, 2015 @05:49PM (#49806673) Homepage
    if you dont want people to know what you are doing.... dont post it online for the world to see! is it really that hard???

    My question is where is the money coming from to pay for this? i want my teachers teaching, not spying
    • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday May 30, 2015 @05:51PM (#49806685) Homepage

      No, you (presumably) want the teachers to be teaching. Not being their parents.

      That ship sailed long ago. That said, GODDAMMIT; '1984' WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A WARNING. NOT AN OPERATIONS MANUAL.

    • Expecting students not to post is unrealistic.

      What IS realistic is to expect most students to use social media to spread the word on how to avoid this particular snooping method.

    • if you dont want people to know what you are doing.... dont post it online for the world to see! is it really that hard???

      That's a nice, pithy saying, and true in all respects.

      What if I want to post innocuous things, but don't want people to *misinterpret* what I'm saying?

      Alternate: What if I want to post innocuous things, but don't want people to invent subtext where there is none?

      Have you ever tried to write to a public audience? There's a reason why the President's "State of the Union" speech takes a lot of effort, and even then people bend the meanings of the words in extreme ways to justify bizarre interpretations.

      Waiting

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        We write to a public audience every day, mostly. That is what this post is, right here. What is up to you is to judge the quality of it and to ensure that you post functional and effective missives so that they are understood and incapable of being misinterpreted except by autistic slashdotters.

      • simple solution... dont attribute it to your real name, or any acct that can be linked to your real name!
    • "i want my teachers teaching, not spying"

      Teachers are not administrators. The two camps are generally in opposition. In recent years administrators have generally taken more control of schools away from teachers at all levels (i.e., become more manager-employee relationship). Administrators would decide and run a program like this. Likely teachers would be the only voice in schools arguing *against* something like this -- and here's hoping they have some job protection so they don't get fired in response.

      Ex

    • by Hasaf ( 3744357 )

      As a teacher, I can tell you that many people expect the teacher to be "spying." I cannot tell you how many of the "good" parents say things like "I am trusting you to tell me if anything tithe [student name] seems wrong." The other parents just get angry post hoc if the school does not see something in advance.

      As if I, a person who sees your kid for five hours a week am going to have greater insight than the people that live with the kid. If I do have some insight, something unseen by the students family,

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        It's one thing to tell the parents, and even that can be problematic. It's another thing to make it a part of the administrative record...which is nearly always a bad thing to do.

    • 1) Facebook and Twitter are not school websites. What happens on them is not the school's business. Someone threatens another student, or you have some Steubenville-style jocks bragging about sexually assaulting someone? Turn it over to the police.

      2) You have control over what you say. You don't have control over Billy Bob's Facebook postings, where he claims to have shared a bong with you at a party (that you didn't even attend)

      3) Yes, people should be able to socialize without the state snooping on th

  • lots of them. yeah, i know.
  • Finally (Score:5, Funny)

    by houghi ( 78078 ) on Saturday May 30, 2015 @06:08PM (#49806773)

    I am so glad they finally are doing what everybody is asking for. We hear a lot of complaining that all schools do is learn people to take tests. And now finally we prepare students for the real world.
    . . . . . . . . . [wikipedia.org]

    • And now finally we prepare students for the real world.

      Given how companies act towards employees, calling that sarcasm was entirely unfounded.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Saturday May 30, 2015 @06:16PM (#49806797)

    Orange County parent groups to monitor Orange County Public Schools Monitoring Students On Social Media.

    Do As I Say, Not, As I Do....

    Anonymous is watching...

  • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Saturday May 30, 2015 @06:24PM (#49806821) Homepage
    There are eight different Orange Counties [wikipedia.org] in the US, in different states, along with one in China, [wikipedia.org] about an hour north of Beijing. I'm glad to know that this is the one in Florida, not the one near where I live.
    • You shouldn't be that glad. Glendale school district did this same thing and that is near where you live. It actually should be more near to ventura county since glendale is in los angeles county than orange county would be.

      http://snaptrends.com/schools-... [snaptrends.com]

      Oh, and no, we do not know each other, I just spent about 5 minutes scraping some information from the web to determine your approx location. Well, in case you were wondering that is.

      • I've mentioned what part of the country I live in on Slashdot, more than one time. Alas, just telling me that something like this is happening in Glendale doesn't make it clear where I live, considering that there are over twenty Glendales in the USA.
        • I'm not going to out you any further than the county you live in. I could, you have plastered it all over the web. But I don't see the point in it. There are not 20 glendales in ventura county. I can tell that you live in a condo with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms near near Heritage Park. 805 should mean something to you as should 484.

          I think your missing the point though. It wasn't that I could find you, it's that people do not realize how much they are giving away to strangers and a school district near you

          • 805 should mean something to you as should 484.

            I've never made any secret out of which county I live in, and in this case that tells you my area code. What's interesting is that even if you know my real name, if you look me up on Google, you'd have to go through several pages before you found the first link to me, although at least one of he images on the first page is mine, and it's over a decade old and I've changed considerably since then. No, I don't want you to publish everything you know about m
            • Yes, you certainly have not tried to make make it secrete and it would have been considerably harder if you tried but not impossible because you are somewhat successful in life. Well, what i would consider successful anyways.

              I was just wanting to make a point. I live about 3000 miles from you (no, not in florida either..lol.) and have no desire to go to jail over someone i don't even know so don't take anything i've done as a threat or anything. Government already collects substantial amounts of informatio

  • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Saturday May 30, 2015 @06:25PM (#49806827)

    1. They can accurately identify students and staff. Since no one has ever created a fake social media account that shouldn't be hard. Just require everyone to provide a list of all their accounts. No one would object to that, correct?

    2. Software can accurately parse potential threat from random uses of keywords and not require excessive reviews of material that is innocuous.

    3. No one would create fake accounts to cause #2 to occur.

    4. No one will object nor have the cash to hire a lawyer if the school demands account information under threat of punishment.

    • 1. They can accurately identify students and staff. Since no one has ever created a fake social media account that shouldn't be hard. Just require everyone to provide a list of all their accounts. No one would object to that, correct?

      If you even just read the summary you would see that the school board is buying software which is capable of location based identification, so simple fake accounts should be easy to see through. I suppose a brother or sister in the same household might be able to pretend to be you, but beyond that, I doubt this software is that easy to fool.

      • 1. They can accurately identify students and staff. Since no one has ever created a fake social media account that shouldn't be hard. Just require everyone to provide a list of all their accounts. No one would object to that, correct?

        If you even just read the summary you would see that the school board is buying software which is capable of location based identification, so simple fake accounts should be easy to see through. I suppose a brother or sister in the same household might be able to pretend to be you, but beyond that, I doubt this software is that easy to fool.

        I guess the question is how do they determine location? If it simply by where you say you are then the software would depend on people accurately entering their location? Geo staged photos? Not hard to fake. I do not know how you extract location data from Facebook. Maybe Facebook sells the data to the software provider so they get accurate data based on FB ability to ID locations? I know sone services use IP addresses which my VPN easily confuses.

        • I guess the question is how do they determine location?

          I connect by ADSL. I've checked with various websites that claim to show where you are based only on your IP address and what they show is where the DSLAM is located, over three miles away. Unless you're using a static IP, that's about as good as they're going to get.
          • But how does one access that about another person on a social media site like Facebook?

            • Well, I suppose that it would be a tad easier if I'd ever had a Facebook account.
              • So perhaps you misread the subject, re: "how you extract location data from Facebook" (GGGP post) when you responded to this thread.

                Anyway, here's the answer: No one can. FB does not make that information available regarding any user.

        • I guess the question is how do they determine location? If it simply by where you say you are then the software would depend on people accurately entering their location? Geo staged photos? Not hard to fake. I do not know how you extract location data from Facebook. Maybe Facebook sells the data to the software provider so they get accurate data based on FB ability to ID locations? I know sone services use IP addresses which my VPN easily confuses.

          Based of what Facebook periodically asks me (I have not provided them a location) Facebook themselves make content based guesses on your "where you live" location, even though they obviously have your IP address.

          Someone else can use public Facebook data and do the same thing. Will the guesses be perfect? No. Will they be good enough for squishy data aggregation, probably.

  • If the school monitoring student or staff internet activity at home, at the library, or one personal devices accessing non-school networks, I would be concerned. However, this is no different than a company saying that on their network and when employees are on the clock, they should be using the network for activities directly related to the companies interests.

    Almost all students and staff have alternate access to the internet during the majority of their awake hours, so this is not a big deal.

  • Good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Saturday May 30, 2015 @07:35PM (#49807115)
    The school is doing its job. Is there a better way to educate students about the value and practice of privacy?
    • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

      No. It's teaching kids that panopticonic surveillance is normal and acceptable.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In my experience as a teacher, "early intervention of potential issues" just means that kids are going to be suspended or expelled by some smug, power-tripping asshole in administration. Suspensions rarely -- if ever -- have a positive impact on a troubled child. Nobody is going to learn a lesson on the value of privacy; you're just going to end up with a bunch of resentful students who hate school even more.

  • This would be a great opportunity for students to expose Orange County School Board's stupidity by figuring how to hack the entire system by what they post on their social media pages. They would be doing nothing illegal and it would make the entire system being used by the school board a joke. I bet by trial and error they could figure it out. For those who are a bit slow I do not mean hacking the software of the school boards system directly. But posting weird message that maybe individually does nothing
  • by koan ( 80826 )

    Stop using social media.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    to all use of Facebork, Twatter, SnapWitter, LinkedOut and other silly 'social media' applications.
    You never know when in 5 or 10 years something silly you posted will come back and haunt you for the rest of your life.

    The Internet (aka Google) never forgets.

    Yes, I'm a luddite when it comes to social media. I see no reason to tell the world things about myself that I may live to regret when I get older and wiser.
    I got a Tat about 10 years ago. Really regretted it ever since so I had it removed last month. Er

  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death [cdc.gov] among teenagers. It's appropriate for high schools and colleges to be addressing this problem.
    • I'm waiting for the first case where someone posts something online, gets attention from the school over something much less serious than suicide, drops social media, gets depressed, then kills themselves, then someone brings up the fact that if the school hasn't been such a nanny the fist time around the person would probably have tipped his hand online and his friends and family who saw the online messages he would have left would've been able to intervene.

    • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

      Fine. Then find and fix the core causes instead of adding to the oppression that drives kids to such extremes. Of course, this would require the school to accept some fault and fix its authoritarian culture.

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Most of the pressure that teens come under derives from their need to fit in with their peer group. Just *try* to fix that in a way that doesn't make things worse.

        OTOH, adding this extra pressure can't be good.

    • Suicide is the third leading cause of death [cdc.gov] among teenagers. It's appropriate for high schools and colleges to be addressing this problem.

      You think that the intertoobz is the cause of teenage suicide? We had a number of teens that offed themselves in the small town I grew up in. Some people just commit suicide. Long before cyberbullies.

      Would you accept constant monitoring just to, you know - make sure you are safe? Why not? Adults commit suicide and take drugs, and become unstable all the time.

  • Anyone can use the Tor browser and that and a tiny bit of common sense will stop anyone from tracking you down and focusing on your emails. And just who in a school board is really qualified to judge who is potentially dangerous? After all psychiatrists readily admit that they can not predict violence in their patients. What it really comes down to is too many kids as well as adults getting a really raw deal in modern America and people who get trapped in bad situations tend to strike back at other
  • Not playing devil's advocate or anything, this is an interesting idea. In the same way that "customer sentiment" is gauged with this kind of tool, it may be in schools best interest to have their students' twitter and FB accounts tracked. What's private remains private if the user wants to, but if the student is writing in public "I'm feeling a bit suicidal" everyday on FB and Twitter and the school is only notified when there's a body at the bottom of a stairwell, then they might realise "oh I wish we kne

  • I hope they're monitoring former students, so that they notice here when I tell them to go fuck themselves.

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