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The Money-Making Spies Inside Digital Textbooks

Posted on May 17, 2014

Photo by Johan Larsson (CC BY 2.0)

A tech startup known as Knewton is among many such companies that monitor the mouse clicks, keystrokes and “split-second hesitation[s]” of 4 million children across the country, Politico reports.

The expressed goal is identifying learning problems early and helping students overcome them, but the development of big data has put heaps of private information about children into the hands of private companies that can profit from mining, sharing and selling it.

According to Politico:

A POLITICO examination of hundreds of pages of privacy policies, terms of service and district contracts — as well as interviews with dozens of industry and legal experts — finds gaping holes in the protection of children’s privacy.

The amount of data being collected is staggering. Ed tech companies of all sizes, from basement startups to global conglomerates, have jumped into the game. The most adept are scooping up as many as 10 million unique data points on each child, each day. That’s orders of magnitude more data than Netflix or Facebook or even Google collect on their users.

Students are tracked as they play online games, watch videos, read books, take quizzes and run laps in physical education. The monitoring continues as they work on assignments from home, with companies logging children’s locations, homework schedules, Web browsing habits and, of course, their academic progress.

Read more here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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