Security & Safety

Nonprofit Examines Privacy Impact of School Safety Tech

surveillance camera in classroom

Privacy-focused nonprofit Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) has taken to video to help schools and families understand the potential impact of monitoring tools districts might deploy in the name of safety.

According to "School Safety & Privacy: An Animated Introduction," while technologies have made it easier for schools to monitor social media posts and flag situations where students need help, for example, they "may not always differentiate between slang and true threats, overwhelming administrators with false positives." Likewise, the monitoring may raise privacy concerns, "if there are not limits on who can see the information collected and how long schools can keep it."

As the video noted, "School safety technologies should only be adopted for specific purposes. Simply saying we want to improve safety is too vague. Schools need a specific objective, like controlling who can enter the school or preventing cyberbullying and self-harm. And these goals might be better achieved without surveillance. After comparing benefits and risks, schools may decide that solutions like more school counselors or anonymous reporting apps are better for students."

The four-minute video appeared in the wake of the March release of 10 school safety principles that would help protect students' "privacy, dignity and right to an equal education." The list was developed by FPF and 39 other education, privacy, disability rights and civil rights organizations.

FPF has also released a series of short videos with in-depth information on specific aspects of school safety and privacy issues and policies, including the use of facial recognition in schools, how surveillance and bias intersect, and how to get community feedback related to developing acceptable school safety practices and policies.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.