I have recently come across LAs and schools that are considering buying software that keeps a track on what is happening on their network(s) – Such software can record online activity by individuals, including web pages visited and messages sent – so said the BBC earlier this week.
Is this what we really want? I am not talking about trying to track teachers who are on their facebook accounts or ordering their groceries in teaching time. I am talking about intrusion and civil liberties. I am sure that those who have adopted such systems can justify their stance in respect to safeguarding but is it any less personally intrusive than the ‘in the background’ actions of Google etc.
The BBC 2 programme, broadcast last evening, in the Digital Revolution series (more here) explained in detail how web searches capture not just our chance data but details about our very life and times. And we have come to expect and accept this just as we do when we hand over a loyalty card at the supermarket checkout. Although the programme was not to my taste – too much clever television and ‘in your face’ presentation in off-site locations – it did get me to wonder who it was aimed at. This, as it was broadcast at peak viewing time on Saturday evening.
But do we want this everywhere?
Telford and Wrekin Council in the English Midlands is one of the many local authorities understood to have introduced such software in all its schools. The council says everyone who logs onto system sees a screen which says activity on the schools’ computers is being monitored.
The underlined bit above took my mind back to the positive messages on safeguarding I heard on Wednesday of last week at the Becta Conference on the theme. If we are considering that the best way forward in safeguarding users is education then surely openly telling them that they are being watched is not the best way to go about it.