Investment continues to flow to ed tech, with $803 million injected during the first six months of the year, according to the industry news website EdSurge. But half of that went to just six companies, including the celebrity tutorial provider MasterClass, the online learning platform Udemy and the school and college review site Niche.
From the outside, the ed-tech sector may appear as if “there’s a bonanza and it’s like the dot-com boom again and everybody’s printing money,” said Michael Hansen, CEO of the K-12 and higher education digital learning provider Cengage. “That is not the case.”
Even if they want to buy more ed-tech tools, meanwhile, schools and colleges are short on cash. Expenses for measures to deal with Covid-19 are up, while budgets are expected to be down.
Analysts and industry insiders now expect a wave of acquisitions as already-dominant brands like these seek to corner even more of the market by snatching up smaller players that provide services they don’t.
Tech-based contact tracing could put schools in murky privacy territory
- A white paper from the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP) suggests the use of contact tracing technology by schools could erode student privacy and may not be effective in preventing the spread of coronavirus.
Despite the pandemic, schools still must conform to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other laws governing student privacy. Districts can disclose information to public health officials, for example, but information can’t be released to the general public without written consent from parents.
The Safely Reopen Schools mobile app is one tool available for automating contact tracing. The idea is that if two mobile phones are close enough to connect via Bluetooth, the phone owners are close enough to transmit the virus. The app includes daily health check-ins and educational notifications, but no personal information is exchanged between the phones, and the app won’t disclose who tested positive.
Colleges are also using apps to help trace and track students’ exposure to coronavirus. In August, 20,000 participants from the University of Alabama at Birmingham were asked to test the GuideSafe mobile app, which will alert them if they’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The app determines the proximity of two people through cell phone signal strength. If someone reports they contracted the virus, an alert will be sent to anyone who has been within six feet of them for at least 15 minutes over the previous two weeks.
Critics of the technology claim these apps aren’t actually capable of contract tracing and could undermine manual efforts to do so.
more on ed tech in this IMS blog
Facial recognition has been used unlawfully and violated human rights, UK Court of Appeal rules in landmark case from r/technology
A British police force violated human rights by unlawfully using facial recognition technology, the Court of Appeal has ruled in a landmark case.
more on facial recognition in this IMS blog
Students fear for their data privacy after University of California invests in private equity firm
A financial link between a virtual classroom platform and the University of California system is raising eyebrows
Instructure has made it clear through their own language that they view the student data they aggregated as one of their chief assets, although they have also insisted that they do not use that data improperly. My note: “improperly” is relative and requires defining.
Yet an article published in the Virginia Journal of Law and Technology, titled “Transparency and the Marketplace for Student Data,” pointed out that there is “an overall lack of transparency in the student information commercial marketplace and an absence of law to protect student information.” As such, some students at the University of California are concerned that — despite reassurances to the contrary — their institution’s new financial relationship with Thoma Bravo will mean their personal data can be sold or otherwise misused.
The students’ concerns over surveillance and privacy are not unwarranted. Previously, the University of California used military surveillance technology to help quell the grad student strikes at UC Santa Cruz and other campuses
25 US Congress members urge President Donald Trump to follow India’s lead and ban TikTok from r/technology
25 US Congressmen and Congresswomen have urged President Donald Trump… In a letter to the US President, dated July 15, they also pointed out that India took the “extraordinary step” of banning several “Chinese affiliated mobile apps including TikTok due to national security concerns”.
India had recently banned 59 Chinese mobile applications including the widely-used social media platforms such as TikTok, WeChat, and Helo within view of the threat to the nation’s sovereignty and security.
more on Tik Tok in this IMS blog
Leaked documents show how police used social media and private Slack channels to track George Floyd protesters from r/technology
Police monitored RSVP lists on Facebook events, shared information about Slack channels protesters were using, and cited protesters’ posts in encrypted messaging apps like Telegram.
How police used social media to track protesters
warning sent to police departments on June 6, the FBI says it’s been tracking “individuals using Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram” who post about organizing protests.
more on surveillance in this IMS blog
After March 2020 reports about Zoom privacy issues, now Zoom acknowledges working with the Chinese government:
Zoom acknowledged it shut down the accounts of several activists and online commemorations of the Tiananmen Square…
Posted by NPR on Friday, June 12, 2020
Is Zoom Safe for Chinese Students?
Unlike many other major tech platforms based in the U.S., Zoom, which is headquartered in California, has not been blocked by the Chinese government. Zoom said in a blog post that it is “developing technology over the next several days that will enable us to remove or block at the participant level based on geography” which will allow the company to “to comply with requests from local authorities when they determine activity on our platform is illegal within their borders; however, we will also be able to protect these conversations for participants outside of those borders where the activity is allowed.”
Zoom’s interference with the Tiananmen gatherings and its suspension of user accounts raised alarm among many in higher education, which increasingly depends on Zoom to operate courses remotely — including for students located within China’s borders.
Multiple scholars took to Twitter to express their worries
PEN America, a group that advocates for free expression, condemned Zoom for shuttering the activist’s account.
This is not the first time Zoom’s links to China have come under scrutiny. In April, the company admitted that some of its user data were “mistakenly” routed through China; in response, the company announced that users of paid Zoom accounts could opt out of having their data routed through data centers in China.
An April 3 report by scholars at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy said Zoom’s research and development operations in China could make the company susceptible “to pressure from Chinese authorities.”
Zoom, whose Chinese-born CEO is a U.S. citizen, said in its latest annual report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had more than 700 employees at its research and development centers in China as of Jan. 31. The SEC filing notes that Zoom has a “high concentration of research and development personnel in China, which could expose us to market scrutiny regarding the integrity of our solution or data security features.”
Zoom Just Totally Caved In to China on Censorship from r/technology
more about Zoom in this IMS blog
my note Looks as if Huawei will not stop this trend….
Huawei attempts inserting backdoor/vulnerability to Linux from r/technews
more about Huawei in this IMS blog
Senate Votes to Allow FBI to Look at Your Web Browsing History Without a Warrant
The US Senate has voted to give law enforcement agencies access to web browsing data without a warrant, dramatically expanding the government’s surveillance powers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The power grab was led by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell as part of a reauthorization of the Patriot Act, which gives federal agencies broad domestic surveillance powers.
“Today the Senate made clear that the purpose of the PATRIOT Act is to spy on Americans, no warrants or due process necessary,” Dayton Young, director of product at Fight for the Future, told Motherboard.