The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: school

Data Mining in Universities

The issue over Internet privacy and surveillance is large and ever-increasing as our lives become more and more linked with the digital world. In Michael Morris’ essay Mining Students’ Data Could Save Lives, Morris argues that schools and universities should employ data mining technology on their networks to try and prevent potentially harmful acts against the staff and student body.

Morris’ stance on this topic is obviously an extremely controversial one. When presented with the notion that schools can track their data, most students would most likely be upset with the idea, saying it’s a violation of their privacy. However, the article brings up an interesting and valid point that we already give up much of our personal information to online websites, most notably for targeted advertising. Yet, most people do not seem bothered by this idea, and continue to use these online services.

The reason why most people wouldn’t agree with schools tracking students’ online activity, despite consenting to online surveillance on the daily, is the concept of personal disconnect. A student is at school for 9 months a year. They have had direct contact with their administration as well. As a result, it feels much more personal to be watched by a university versus a large corporation like Google which has billions of users. In addition, students would most likely feel suspicious with the school, thinking that administration would be watching their every move online with a magnifying glass. I think that university surveillance of students’ activity on their networks could be an effective way of keeping schools safe. With gun violence being such a hot issue in America, it’s reasonable for schools to be allowed to look at potentially suspicious activity. If you’re not doing anything wrong, there should be no reason for you to worry.

Can mining students’ data work?

The central argument of Morris’s essay is: although mining students’ data can not perfectly predict the campus violence and may provide issues of getting student private information without permission, this method is still helpful to reduce the possibility of school violence event. I agree with it. By surveilling student’s data on the internet, the school can both protect the student himself and the campus. First, if the school uses the data mining method to get students’ searching frequency and their comments on the social media, the school can analyze the data and find out the reasons that are responsible for the wired behavior. After this, the school can send faculty to solve the metal problems and prevent the situation become more serious. What’s more, if the school solves the students’ metal issues, it will create a healthier environment for studying. With this improvement, it can create a loop that healthier environment will lead to less mental issues. Less mental issues can lead to less campus violence. Thus, mining students’ data creates more benefits compare to doing nothing. However, school should still keep the data private instead of telling the situation to the whole faculty to prevent the violence. The school should use proper methods to solve the students’ metal issues in order to build a safer campus life.

21st Century Cryptanalyst

In chapter one of The Code Book, Simon Signh writes, “Cryptanalysis could not be invented until a civilization had reached a sufficiently sophisticated level of scholarship in several disciplines, including mathematics, statistics, and linguistics.” (p. 15) This is a valid point. However, the necessity of education to become a cryptanalyst during the period of deep reflection in 610 AD, has changed dramatically in the modern world.

600 AD was not, by any means, a time of accessible education. Ptolemy’s influence had just reached the world in 100 AD, and Brahmagupta, who developed rules for the mathematical applications of 0, was just becoming prominent. Some of our basic principles were still being discovered. Needless to say, not everyone could afford the luxuries of schooling, even in basic subjects. 

Today, we have much more than ever before. Public schooling is essentially available to all of the western world, and many more people have the ability to learn the disciplines required to be an amatur cryptanalyst without prestiguous schooling. The fact that we can now use the “on our own” approach to achieve what many long before us needed ages to accomplish, is not something that should be looked upon shamefully, but instead as an indication of how far society has come.


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