Or put more dramatically, (cynically?) Is all EdTech just another form of surveillance tech?
It was a matter of time for AI and Cybersecurity to cross paths in EdTech and learning applications. All important issues to address simultaneously, but makes the situation all the more complex.
But let’s take a shot anyway. At the questions, mind you, not necessarily the answer.
Does the introduction of AI (machine learning, Artificial Neural Networks, statistical algorithms) in EdTech
- make the technology more or less secure?
- put personal and sensitive information at a higher or lower risk?
- represent the best available way to address critical social and mental issues surrounding schoolers, including bullying and shootings
- is a national security prerogative, especially considering the vast pace of development and personal data lakes available from rival China?
Is every technology, especially “AI-infused,” across classrooms and campuses, automatically EdTech? We’re including
- Cameras, video surveillance and CCTV systems
- Computers and touch-based interfaces for ID, access and payment
- Internet content and activity monitoring and filtering, especially social media posting or sharing
- Firewalls, antivirus and other methods to protect digital resources from malicious access
- Those supporting school-based policing and the duties of School Resource Officers
And for those with an interest on the actual technology,
- How does it work exactly?
- What is the effectiveness rate, in Type 1 (false negatives) and Type B (false positive) terms? How does it fare against industry standards or state of the art?
- How much human participation does the tech involve, and on which stages?
Depending on where you stand and lean towards, the following news and technology releases might answer some of those questions in one form or another.
- Gaggle, (Microsoft Office, Canvas LMS, and Google for Education Premier Partner), claims its solution has helped identify violent, suicidal and self-harm intent. It “tipped” 148 in the first six month of the school year to the Wichita Falls school district alone. An accompanying report includes accounts where the technology looked instrumental in the prevention of suicide and child abuse.
- Internet safety EdTech Securly has acquired TechPilot Labs, developers of the Chromebook management app ChromeTools, blurring the line between focus and safety. The first update after the acquisition is compatibility with Schoology LMS. ChromeTools allows teachers and admins to manage what a user can do and access on the school’s Chromebooks, and monitor screens in real time. Bonus: Digital boundaries for kids guide.
Computer eyes don’t care about your feelings
Speaking of groundbreaking AI fields with critical implications for surveillance, nothing comes to mind more presciently than Computer Vision. But while they have proven their worth by identifying and recognizing faces, track and classify elements, they have continuously failed at tasks related to humans and their emotions, regardless how trivial these may sound to some.
The latest and most resounding compilation of academic research paints a disheartening picture for those who trusted images of faces to detect alerts or threats accurately. Not even those who focus on the basic human emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise) can accurately determine emotion or intent from image or video. Why? “[p]eople sometimes smile when happy, frown when sad, scowl when angry, and so on…”
Barrett, Lisa Feldman, Ralph Adolphs, Stacy Marsella, Aleix M. Martinez, and Seth D. Pollak (2019) “Emotional Expressions Reconsidered: Challenges to Inferring Emotion From Human Facial Movements.” Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Vol. 20, No. 1.
Mandatory and friendly reminder that ransomware is still a thing
We don’t need to go farther than last month for the next big fish caught by hackers. The California’s San Diego Unified School District revealed 500,000 among students and staff became victims, on what already is a budget-conscious entity.
The nefarious effects on organizations and people are widely known. The best practices available are too:
- Promote good “security hygiene” across all users.
- Keep system up to the latest (Open Source, hopefully) defense and encryption methods.
- Be very careful with whom you give higher admin controls.
- Keep backups in separate locations that update automatically.
- Consider some insurance.