How Schools Use Phones to Track and Surveil Students

It’s a common knowledge that phones are major distractions. Even at schools, it poses a threat, some government has outrightly banned its use in schools. Some school administrations however, see phones as a benefit as it allows them to track students effectively.

Up to 10 schools across the US are looking at installing location-tracking company Inpixon’s radio frequency scanners. It picks up on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals from students’ phones and track them.

CEO Nadir Ali said the company is currently speaking with other school districts to use the tech. Some of the schools in the Middle East are already considering using the product. 

Schools begin to use phones to track students

Schools have taken interest in Inpixon because they believe the technology aids students’ safety, Ali said. His company has proposed that the technology can aid school safety by detecting phones of blacklisted people when they’re nearby. 

Inpixon also offers indoor positioning analytics in prison, malls and cinemas. Now it wants to bring its phone tracking technology to schools. It also has a specialized tracking tool for children who aren’t old enough to have their own phones. 

“Some of these schools may have younger kids, so they may not be carrying phones. There’s an application where there’s a wristband or a tag they can use in lieu of a phone,” Ali said. “The schools that are looking at wristbands usually have elementary-level kids on campus.” 

The Washington Post reported in December that colleges have also started requiring students to download tracking apps. This helps in marking attendance and also monitor their mental health.

However, privacy advocates warn that as this technology finds its way into schools, children could suffer developmental issues from the constant surveillance. 

Phones can help in tracking students

In Maryland, four teens committing a hate crime on school property got apprehended after their phones connected to the building’s Wi-Fi automatically. “Anything that is collecting device identifiers, even if it’s been told to ignore that device, is still sending a ping somewhere,” said the Future of Privacy Forum’s Amelia Vance. “Claiming that this would be anonymous is not accurate.” 

Most of the time, entire school districts collectively acquire technology , not just a single school. That means the data collected from kindergarten kids could follow them all the way until they go to college.
“What’s most concerning is there’s nothing stopping them from creating a ledger of kids from an early age,” O’Sullivan said. “If you’re living in a society where there’s no right to be forgotten, you’re going to pay for that in the future.”  

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