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.

To continue reading, log into your account or explore our subscription options:





More Columns/Opinion

Columns/Opinion
Disease can be financially toxic
For three decades Ive worked with people who are aging or chronically ill, helping them figure out how the heck they are going to pay for old age or serious illness.
September 13, 2019 - 7:41 am
Columns/Opinion
Black Americans are doing a lot better under Trump
The August jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed more great news for all Americans.
September 12, 2019 - 7:53 am
Columns/Opinion
Is it ethical to take good money from bad people?
The now-former head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab went from hero to zero in a couple of news cycles.
September 11, 2019 - 8:09 am
Columns/Opinion
Dealing with Taliban devil that’s waiting us out
President Trump was right to cancel a secret meeting with leaders of the Taliban and the Afghan government following two bomb attacks by the terrorist group that killed 10 civilians, an American soldier and a Romanian service member in heavily fortified Kabul.
September 10, 2019 - 8:39 am