The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many institutions to the 21st century, and not all of it was for the benefit of the end users. In the case of schools, that would be students – who have been provided with online services to continue their education. And while some of these tools served their purpose for the time of the pandemic, there were also those that were and still are misused by the school officials. Yes, they are tracking students and even blocking parts of the Internet they deem “dangerous” for students.
Here’s what “modern” schools are capable of…
A school can see which sites you visit
Whenever you connect to the school Wi-Fi with your device — whether it’s a phone, tablet, or computer — the school admins will know it. Moreover, if the sites and services you’re visiting are not secured with HTTPS, they can also see what you’ve looked at.
Things are only going worse from here on school-provided devices, which tend to come with classroom management software preinstalled. Said software allows the admins to see Internet history, and it has been implemented on students’ laptops since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
The benefit, according to the proponents of the software, is that it allows teachers to “watch” students when they do their schoolwork or take tests. On the other hand, they can also violate students’ privacy.
According to privacy advocates Big Brother Watch, classroom management software has been implemented in over 1,000 schools across the UK, and we’re sure they are just warming up. Scary…
A school can see where you are
Aside from seeing which websites you’re visiting, the school’s admin can also see your location when you connect to the school’s Wi-Fi. Heck, we’ve read reports involving several universities in Australia tracking the movement of students around campus through their Wi-Fi-connected mobile phones. What’s more, they were able to tell the exact room the students were in.
At the moment, universities are said to be only tracking students in general to, supposedly, get the idea of which spots on the campus are popular and how, for instance, visiting some spots affects students’ grades. However, the same technology could be used to pinpoint an individual student’s location, and that’s where things start getting spooky.
Add facial recognition cameras to the mix, and you get a setup that is taken straight out from the 1984 novel.
Which brings us to the action point of this article…
How to stop the school from tracking you
There are several things that could be done, including:
1. Get the EFF’s HTTPS Everywhere browser add-on. It will force every connection in your browser to be secure, making it much harder for anyone to intercept your traffic.
2. Get a good VPN. It will hide all your internet traffic from anyone, at your school’s campus and everywhere else.
3. Use separate email accounts for private and academic correspondence. Also, try avoiding the most popular webmail services such as Gmail, HotMail, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook.com, and so on. Instead, get a more privacy-friendly option like ProtonMail.
5. Fight the surveillance on campus. Use a face mask or some weird scarf to point out to the administration and your fellow students you’re against surveillance.
Hopefully, by following this, you will at least partially protect your privacy. Good luck!