Leave those kids alone! Thousands of schoolchildren being spied on without their knowledge

© Luke MacGregor
At least 1,000 schools have installed software that allows teachers to monitor their students’ internet activity, but most schools have failed to inform youngsters that they are being watched.

According to a report by civil liberties watchdog Big Brother Watch, several secondary schools in England and Wales have installed the Classroom Management Software in more than 821,000 devices owned by the institutions and by pupils themselves.

The tool can allow teachers to monitor the screens on every single desktop in the classroom, as well as access the students’ internet browsing history and alert staff of “signs of extremism and radicalization.”

Campaigners were shocked to find that of the few institutions (149) able to provide Acceptable Use policies on their management of the software, over 80 percent did not give detailed information on the monitoring process.

Big Brother Watch believes although the software may have a role to play in keeping students safe, children and parents should be advised about the privacy settings of the program.

“Finding the balance between keeping pupils safe online without impinging on their right to privacy is a challenge for every school,” said the group’s chief executive Renate Samson.

“But encouraging schools to track and monitor pupils creates a worrying precedent, particularly if pupils and parents are being left in the dark.

“As technology in the classroom becomes the norm, schools must ensure they don’t become modern day panopticons, where children grow up believing their every digital move is being watched.”

It cost the taxpayer a total of £2 million (US$2.48 million) to install the controversial software. More is spent each year on maintenance and subscription fees.