9/19/13. ‘Biometric classroom’ monitors students’ eye movements and conversations. Mikael Thalen, StoryLeak
“A report from Yahoo News Tuesday detailed a group of New York engineers who are developing a “biometric classroom” monitoring program that will track students’ every move.
The report reads: “Students listen up! If you are used to passing notes, tapping out texts or even sneaking in quick conversations when you’re supposed to be working on fractions…beware! Those kinds of activities could be a thing of the past – or at the very least, closely monitored – in the biometric classroom of the future.”
Sean Montgomery, co-founder and engineer for SensorStar Labs, says tracking students’ eye movements, conversations and smiles with “EngageSense” cameras will help teachers improve classroom learning. Algorithms in the program will crunch the raw visual and audio data to give teachers detailed information on students’ actions. Teachers will then be advised on how to better engage students.
“When the student is looking up at the teacher, the teacher score goes up. If she looks down at the computer, the computer score goes up. So we’re tracking facial expressions. If she makes a smile, it might be indicative that is enthusiastic about the topic,” said Montgomery.
When asked about the privacy implications of such an intrusive technology, Montgomery defended the program by claiming that the usefulness somehow outweighed any privacy concern in typical “ends justify the means” fashion.
“I think privacy is a very serious issue that we need to consider carefully going forward and in the future but the idea here is that the information is being digested and presented in a useful way so the teacher can react and respond appropriately,” said Montgomery. “I think in five years, this is going to be in classrooms.”
Despite the endless claims of technology leading to an increased “learning” experience in the classroom, studies have found just the opposite. After spending $33 million on interactive screens, laptops and high-end software, a school district in Arizona saw no improvement in test scores as the rest of the state’s scores rose.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has poured billions into the country’s public education system by supporting Common Core as well as the research of different student monitoring technologies. Gates has already begun funding the development of “engagement pedometers,” biometric bracelets for students that send electrical currents across the skin to measure the body’s response to different stimuli. Schools all across the country have already implemented biometric fingerprint and palm scanning lunch payment systems.
Earlier this year a Florida school distract ran a “student safety pilot program” that consisted of using iris scanning devices on students. A letter to parents from the biometric company’s senior director of support services stated that the program would “identify when and where a student gets on the bus, when they arrive at their school location, when and what bus the student boards and disembarks in the afternoon.”
A high school student in Texas was suspended just last year for refusing to wear an RFID-enabled ID badge that tracked her every move during school. After public outcry and protest from civil rights groups, the school offered to remove the badge’s chip and battery if the student stopped criticizing the policy. When the student decided to carry her old school ID, the school banned her from school functions.
While these systems by themselves could be useful in a perfect society, the government surveillance state has proven time and time again that such information will be used against the public. Apple, one of the companies deeply involved with the NSA, implemented fingerprint scanning technology into its newly released iPhone 5S, causing several security experts to point out the obvious privacy dangers.
Whether it be illegal face scanning cameras on city streets, surveillance street lights, the proposed biometric social security cards or drone surveillance, it is no longer a surprise that geniuses such as Stephen Hawking predict a future of “Killer robots and crippling cyber attacks.”