Stop the mental health data mining of our children

No, no, no. Hell, no!
That’s my response to the latest trial balloon floated by the White House to join with Silicon Valley on a creepy program monitoring “neurobehavioral signs” to (purportedly) prevent gun violence.
President Trump’s old friend, former NBC head Bob Wright, has been pushing an Orwellian surveillance scheme called “Safe Home” — “Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes” — that would cost taxpayers between $40 million and $60 million. The Washington Post reports the plan could incorporate “Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home,” as well as “fMRIs, tractography and image analysis.”
Here’s the big lie: Wright’s group promises that privacy will be “safeguarded,” profiling “avoided” and data protection capabilities a “cornerstone of this effort.”
Anything involving Google should trigger automatic danger warnings of invasive data mining. We do not need the federal government partnering with Google to red-flag citizens. We need the federal government to red-flag Google.
Google has already admitted to data mining children’s emails without consent and in violation of the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This school year, untold thousands, if not millions, of children were required to sign on to Google email and Chrome in order to access homework, schedules and classroom discussions – without obtaining parental consent. Thanks to “1-to-1” programs forcing students across the country to use laptops and tablets when paper and pencil would suffice, iPads loaded with Google for Education are metastasizing in tech-crazed, fad-addled school districts oblivious to privacy concerns.
At my high school sophomore son’s school, every student was told to download an app called “E-Hallpass,” which is seamlessly connected to their Google login, to track how much time students spend in the bathroom. It’s all in the name of “safety,” of course.
Minnesota educator Jennifer Dahlgren told me this week: “Too many schools use Google docs and sheets to store and share (private) student information, as well as using Google as their secure email! I have brought this up in staff meetings as a concern and no one else seems bothered. Not good!”
Just last week, the Federal Trade Commission approved a settlement with Google/YouTube over its violation of the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. YouTube had been mining data of unsuspecting YouTube users under age 13. It will pay a pittance for this massive child abuse — somewhere between $150 million to $200 million, which amounts to just a few months’ of YouTube ad revenue.

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