Domestic, Ethics, Public education, Required, Students, Technology, University & College - Written by Wired Academic on Thursday, October 13, 2011 16:00 - 0 Comments
CaliforniaWatch: CSU police official calls for colleges to monitor students online
This article about the California State University System comes to us from partners at California Watch… a non-profit investigative reporting project:
Billions of details about students’ lives pulse through university computer servers every day. The data is in e-mails from school accounts, in online purchases and Facebook updates made on school Internet connections.
This flood of data might contain clues to future violent threats at colleges. A campus police lieutenant at CSU Channel Islands is arguing that university officials need to use that information to monitor their student bodies. Lt. Michael Morris took his case public this week with an editorial published in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
“This information, which may reside in the university’s IT system, would allow the campus to strategize a swift and effective intervention, and take steps to prevent violent behavior from ever occurring,” he wrote.
No such surveillance is under way at California universities or elsewhere in the U.S. However, it is possible to gather and analyze the data, according to Michael Berman, chief information officer for CSU Channel Islands. Billions of details about students’ lives pulse through university computer servers every day. The data is in e-mails from school accounts, in online purchases and Facebook updates made on school Internet connections.
This flood of data might contain clues to future violent threats at colleges. A campus police lieutenant at CSU Channel Islands is arguing that university officials need to use that information to monitor their student bodies…
Michael Morris, a lieutenant with the University Police at California State University-Channel Islands, writes in the Chronicle:
Many campuses across the country and most in California provide each student with an e-mail address, personal access to the university’s network, free use of campus computers, and wired and wireless Internet access for their Web-connected devices. Students use these campus resources for conducting research, communicating with others, and for other personal activities on the Internet, including social networking. University officials could potentially mine data from their students and analyze them, since the data are already under their control. The analysis could then be screened to predict behavior to identify when a student’s online activities tend to indicate a threat to the campus.
If university officials were to learn that a student had conducted extensive online research about the personal life and daily activities of a particular faculty member, posted angry and threatening comments on his Facebook wall about that professor, shopped online for high-powered firearms and ammunition, and saved a draft version of a suicide note on his personal network drive, would those officials want to have a conversation with that student, even though he hadn’t engaged in any significant outward behavior? Certainly.
This information, which may reside in the university’s IT system, would allow the campus to strategize a swift and effective intervention, and take steps to prevent violent behavior from ever occurring. In such cases, an important distinction would have to be made between violations of the law and violations of campus policy, and established guidelines would have to be followed to ensure the student’s rights to due process.
Interestingly, the technology exists to allow university officials to take such actions. Data mining involves applying specifically designed algorithms to electronic data to identify patterns and transform the data into usable information. It is a form of behavioral surveillance, and it can be used to predict, with amazing accuracy, the propensity for a person’s future behavior. Computer engineers design data-mining algorithms to search for specific patterns that, when analyzed collectively, tend to indicate the likelihood of a particular outcome.
<img alt=’Story by California Watch, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting’ border=’0′ height=’237′ src=’http://californiawatch.org/files/CWlogos/cwlogo-vert-tagline-215px.jpg’ width=’143′ />
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