The COVID 19 pandemic has brought many changes to our lives. From remote working to various restrictions, the companies and governments around the world have introduced various measures to keep all of us safe.
Schools and other educational institutions were affected as well, bringing many of their classes online. Instead of hanging out with friends, students got accustomed to virtual hangouts with their peers.
Even before the pandemic, many colleges were tracking and even controlling what their students can and can’t do on the Internet. Now that students are going back to the campuses, the situation is expected to get worse.
So what are the schools tracking and why are they doing it? Keep reading to find out…
Tracking students online
Whenever you connect the campus Wi-Fi networks, your school will know what you’re doing online and their software will act accordingly. Chances are no one is watching for every individual student, but the mentioned software is there to censor the Internet — disabling access to parts that were previously configured as “problematic.”
Want to access some adult content? No chance. Perhaps you can’t even access YouTube and Facebook, as those two could also be blocked by the school.
Even without visiting any “suspicious” website, your school will know “what you did last summer.” Yes, just like Google and Facebook, it too can and — if they have resources, will — create a digital profile of yours to “serve you better.” Or they’ll say something similar.
In some situations, schools even require students to install a special software to “watch” when they do their schoolwork or take tests. This has happened since the start of the pandemic, according to privacy advocates Big Brother Watch which checked over 1,000 schools across the UK.
While we can’t justify cheating on tests, we think measures like these are simply over the top.
Tracking students’ location
Like tracking users’ online whereabouts is not enough, some schools are also implementing location tracking software that knows where you are based on the Wi-Fi usage. Even though access point names could be the same, a school may be using one of those mesh networks that have multiple Internet Access Points (AP) and can thus know which AP you’re using to get online.
Specifically, in Australia – it has been discovered that several universities do this and can even tell the exact room the students are in.
Although most universities currently only track the movements of students in general, it is possible that they will be adding new capabilities down the road. This could further help them identify every individual student, to check the amount of time they’re on campus and reflect that time in their grades. That is scary.
And then there are cameras
Add cameras to the mix and you come to the true story of 1984 in which professors are masters and students are NOT their slaves but the “next best thing.” They can’t do anything without an authority knowing about it.
Modern CCTV surveillance cameras and the underlying server technologies feature some serious brain power with face ID capabilities, location data and more.
Unfortunately, if you want to go to school, there is little you could do about these cameras. They will always be there, watching every step you make.
Can you fight back?
Students can hardly avoid cameras but they could do something about the rest. For instance, if they have a lot of data on their mobile phone plans – they could create a mobile hotspot and connect to the Internet that way. Mobile data is getting more affordable with the day, and soon enough, all of us will have unlimited data plans — or so we hope.
As for tracking what you’re doing online, the easiest way to stop this is to get yourself a VPN. We can help you with that part and have even prepared a list of the Best VPNs for Schools. You may want to check that out.
Additionally, you may also want to read our article on how to be more anonymous online.
In the meantime, we can hope that professors and the school admin staff realizes that “with great power comes great responsibility.” And that’s responsibility for students’ privacy, in case you wonder.