Is Big Brother Watching? Today, the Kansas City newspaper ran an article about the University of Missouri requiring students to be tracked by their mobile phones in order to monitor class attendance.

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Dave Robinson on Jan 21, 2020 • 4 answer
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What do you think? Does this cross the line of personal privacy rights? Or is it already a reality? Should people no longer expect privacy as to where they are and who else is with them?


I did not read the article, but I think it depends on the "how" behind the tracking method. If they can only track whether a phone has been detected like via Bluetooth within the room, kind of an automated attendance taker. Meaning your phone really answers "here" digitally only within the room. I think that is fine. Or is it wide open tracking like a find my phone app - which is not fine.

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Gary Hassenstab on Jan 21, 2020
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There are several business purposes like personalized ads, directions and other content that make sense when you don't think about the privacy issues. The reality is that your phones or other voice enabled and already deliver targeted advertising (like Facebook) based on your conversations. The idea that we have some privacy in the era of smart phones and AI/ML is a misnomer.

This is not meant to be pessimistic but a reality that the lines of privacy have been crossed and that much of the concern will likely be generational where the college campus population is unlikely to view this as a significant breach of privacy as long as there is no punishment for not attending class. When there is a punishment, then there will be a problem.

Employers are evaluating this technology for safety purposes with locators in ID cards to help with BC/DR events. It is definitely something that can be done and have some very positive use cases, but comes with the downside of any technology where it can be abused and misused for nefarious purposes. Technology will continue to push us to the edge of feasible versus morally acceptable. Cloning has been possible for quite awhile but the moral implications have been a challenge. Personal locator devices may not evoke the same visceral response, but comes from the same genesis.

In most of these issues, the ability to choose with a default of opt-out tends to be the safest political path and is likely where a university institution will land.

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Matt Anderson on Jan 21, 2020
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Interesting question. I haven't read the article either. Whether we like it or not, the technology has been here and will only become more pervasive in our personal and professional lives. The younger generation will probably easily adopt as this is all they know. The older generations are likely to question, object and want to opt-out.

I'm a big proponent of having to "Opt-in" rather than "Opt-out." That puts control in the hands of the individual. It allows someone to question or scrutinize....should they desire. Or, perhaps the younger generation will view it as an inconvenience. I do not think it is an invasion of privacy as long as there is awareness to the protocols. What is being done? How? For what purpose? What data is being captured? For whom? etc., etc. And most importantly from my perspective, I always want to "Opt-In!" I do not like the small print disclaimer with a default of "Opting-in" and forcing you to take action if you do not want to.

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Joe DuCharme on Jan 22, 2020
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Here's a link to the article:

Sounds like it leverages devices in classrooms and an app that checks in when they're within range of the device. Also that it is "opt-in".

My question is why??? The article only says it's related to students struggling with their studies. But *if* this setup captures students anytime they're within range of *any* of these devices, then that seems to me to be a notable invasion of privacy because students may have enrolled for one reason (help them show up to class) but data is captured and/or stored in more situations than just that. What if parents ask to have access to this system? Is that OK?

Systems like this seem to be using technology to solve one problem without (potentially) understanding other problems it may cause down the road.

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Craig Fischer on Jan 24, 2020
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