Colleges are turning students’ phones into surveillance machines, tracking the locations of hundreds of thousands

Colleges are turning students’ phones into surveillance machines, tracking the locations of hundreds of thousands

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: December 24, 2019 SNIP: When Syracuse University freshmen walk into professor Jeff Rubin’s Introduction to Information Technologies class, seven small Bluetooth beacons hidden around the Grant Auditorium lecture hall connect with an app on their smartphones and boost their “attendance points.” And when they skip class? The SpotterEDU app sees that, too, logging their absence into a campus database that tracks them over time and can sink their grade. It also alerts Rubin, who later contacts students to ask where they’ve been. His 340-person lecture has never been so full. “They want those points,” he said. “They know I’m watching and acting on it. So, behaviorally, they change.” Short-range phone sensors and campuswide WiFi networks are empowering colleges across the United States to track hundreds of thousands of students more precisely than ever before. Dozens of schools now use such technology to monitor students’ academic performance, analyze their conduct or assess their mental health. But some professors and education advocates argue that the systems represent a new low in intrusive technology, breaching students’ privacy on a massive scale. The tracking systems, they worry, will infantilize students in the very place where they’re expected to grow into adults, further training them to see surveillance as a normal part of living, whether they like it or not. “We’re adults. Do we really need to be tracked?” said Robby Pfeifer, a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, which recently began logging the attendance of students connected to the campus’ WiFi network. “Why is this necessary? How does this benefit us? … And is it just going to...
Climate Kings

Climate Kings

SOURCE: The New Republic DATE: July 30, 2018 SNIP: National crises make governments vulnerable to autocracy—a rather obvious assessment, perhaps, but one rarely seen in debates about climate change. Take the Maldives, an atoll nation in the Indian Ocean. Rising seawater is projected to consume most, if not all, of the country this century. In 2008, the Maldives chose its first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed. Almost immediately, he made climate change preparations central to his administration. He announced plans to move 360,000 Maldivian citizens to new homelands in Sri Lanka, India, or Australia, and he promised to make the Maldives the world’s first carbon-neutral country. Nasheed also demonstrated a flair for the dramatic, staging an underwater Cabinet meeting that turned him into a viral climate celebrity. “What we need to do is nothing short of decarbonizing the entire global economy,” he said. “If man can walk on the moon, we can unite to defeat our common carbon enemy.” In 2012, the military deposed Nasheed, forcing him to flee the country at gunpoint after mass protests over economic stagnation and spikes in commodity prices. His eventual successor, Abdulla Yameen, has since suspended parts of the constitution, giving himself sweeping powers to arrest and detain opponents, including two of the country’s five Supreme Court justices and even his own half-brother. Meanwhile, Yameen has tossed out Nasheed’s climate adaptation plans and rejected renewable energy programs, proposing instead to build new islands and economic free zones attractive to a global elite. “We do not need cabinet meetings underwater,” his environment minister told The Guardian. “We do not need to go anywhere. We...