The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: Ferpa


In the essay “Mining Student Data Could Save Lives” by Michael Morris, Morris argues that data mining on college campuses is essential for student safety. The essay begins by explaining how data mining can be useful in our daily lives., for instance, collects data in order to best predict products that we would likely purchase. Credit card companies track our location and spending habits to prevent credit card theft. Similar to the examples, colleges automatically have access to our online records through the email accounts and free internet they provide us. However, these colleges were unable to use these records to enforce disciplinary actions because of Ferpa (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Acts), which prevents schools from releasing students’ educational records without the students consent. 

Considering the possible positive effects, I believe that data mining is extremely practical. Today, nearly everyone uses the internet. Due to this fact, many crimes can easily be predicted through the perpetrator’s search history. As Morris mentioned, it would not be difficult to imagine that people who wrote about their teachers negatively online, researched their faculty members lives extensively, and then purchased an assault rifle had the potential to become a murderer. Through data mining, you can easily perceive events that were previously difficult to predict. Ignoring the online information automatically collected, instead of using it for the greater good, could potentially be considered wasteful. 

How far should school surveillance go?

Morris’s argument appeals to the emotions of his readers starting when he describes a horrid event that we all are very familiar with: school shootings. He notes that these deadly school shootings come with a fair amount of warnings and if the correct people saw these warning signs hidden among the internet, they could have take the opportunity to prevent many campus massacres. Morris logically believes that if a university provides access to the internet, email, and high tech equipment, the university does have the power to also monitor the students’ activity to some degree. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (Ferpa) has been one of the largest reasons that the topic of students’ internet privacy has been untouched but in the wake of more school shooting Ferpa is making changes and Morris believe that schools should now take advantage of these revolutionary data mining algorithms and prevent further shootings.

I agree with Morris’s overarching argument that school’s have a duty to protect their students from another potentially dangerous student. However, using data mining tools that could take account of students recent Google searches, recent social media posts, and even personal information would not be the best approach for a variety of reasons. While I do argue that too much of the students privacy is being infringed upon I like to view this issue from a different perspective. If a larger university uses a data mining tool to keep track of 15,000 students for example, all the data I mentioned before is being funneled through some algorithm that is running on one or multiple school owned computer systems. This facilitation of data that the school is now in charge of is not secure. Just how 100% security is not obtainable in our society now, the personal data of thousands of students is now vulnerable. A group of hackers could target the schools data and potential steal sensitive information from large chucks of the student population. Potential the student body would be even less safe. I think that schools should use some sort of surveillance, but also balance the weight of that surveillance with securing the privacy of their students information.

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