US College Allegedly Using Location Tracking Apps and Apple iBeacons to Track Students

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Digital surveillance is one of the most debated subjects. We have seen instances of government agencies snoop on a person of interest. Now it is alleged that US colleges are forcing students to install an app that would let the authorities track students.

Apparently new students studying at the University of Missouri are being forced to install the SpotterEDU app. The report by Kansas City Star claims that students don’t have a choice of whether to install the app. The app makes use of Apple’s iBeacons to ascertain whether or not a student is in the room.

As expected the news has stirred up controversy and has compelled university spokesperson to issue a statement. The official claims that the app is meant only for athletes and the college is piloting the app for less than 2% of students. Furthermore, they also claim that its “completely optional.”

In its defense, college insists that no GPS tracking is enabled and the app will not be able to track students outside the school. Interestingly, SpotterEDU is being tested across 40 schools. The authorities claim that it has been effective in improving students’ attendance. A Syracuse professor told Washington Post that classes have never been so full and attest that attendance has improved by 90 percent. However, the professor also claims that an earlier version of the app came with GPS and shared coordinates with students.

Digital Surveillance is undoubtedly on the rise. Some schools in India took flak for using CCTV cameras for monitoring students. Typically, institutes are using WiFi networks and Bluetooth beacons to track students and further use the data to monitor their performance.

Our Take

Digital Surveillance in schools and other educational institutions is borderline creepy. It is not a good idea to micromanage students. Increased surveillance in school will also prep students to accept government tracking in the future, which is not a good thing.