Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rules for school tools, privacy in danger.

The surprise announcement by the District administrators to have every St Paul student be given an Ipad (mini-laptop) took many people (even the school board) and public by surprise.  The coverage by the two daily newspapers recently has received front page attention.  The St Paul School District decided to completely shift gears from what they told voters last year when we voted for a school tax referendum. As soon as I read the articles the questions started to flow. Would there be a parent anywhere who would support the school district’s actions to abrogate their families and children's privacy rights? Does the Ipad initiative violate students/family privacy and liberty rights?  Does the School district have the right to install devices in the Ipads that allow monitoring and surveillance of where students go and what they do? What are the choices that parents and students have?

I spoke with a school board member who said to me that students/parents may not have a right to privacy with Ipads. The member, said their private employer asked the board member to sign away their right to privacy. I said correct, but an employer can ask you to waive away your privacy, but it's different with government, the member's employer is not a government entity.  Can it be a requirement to waive your 1st and 4th Amendment privacy rights and liberty as a condition for receiving an Ipad from the St Paul School District?  Is that illegal in itself?

When I asked Karen Randall, a leader in the Ipad initiative for the district, if there are rules in place to protect student's and families privacy with the school issued Apple Ipad's?  I did not get a clear and straight answer.  She referred to a study that was done last year by a security specialist.  She also tacked on there was input by community people at the same time.  But that was a year ago when Ipad's were not in the school district's dreams or where they?  But are there comprehensive and detailed rules in place to protect student's and families privacy?  What rationale and standards are there for a school official to get access to data on the Ipad?  I would say the answer is NO

It seems that the St Paul School District wants to develop their own privacy policies without any input from the community and parents. Parents, students, and community members should demand that our school district have very clear rules with input from the public.The school board should demand and necessitate a group of parents, privacy people, and others to suggest what the rules for the tools should be.  Not dictated by the school district management which in my judgement do not know what they're doing when it comes to technology and protection of privacy/liberty.

The questions still flow. What kind of data sharing or collection will there be with Apple?  What will they do with it?  Will the issued Ipads track student's activity and block certain websites including social media? Will the discriminatory barrier stay in place after the school hours?
Will  social sites be blocked?  How about YouTube and other kinds of sites?

The St Paul School District through the Ipad Apple program will collect details about students and families that they have never done before.  With privacy there is a lack of trust with institutions, such as the public schools.  By engaging the community with diligence on the data privacy issues on the Ipad program with respect..........the school district can make a significant step forward in building a trust relationship between parents, students, and schools.  What are the rules for the tools?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cell phone spy devices used multitude of times, but no documentation

Since last September with my first data request to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, I have been finding out more and more how the agency has been very secretive to keep from the public and policymakers information.  Information that the public and policymakers have a right to have.

What we Minnesotan's have found out since last last fall is that the Bureau since 2005 has spent hundreds of thousands of public dollars on devices that can locate and pinpoint individuals very precisely.  Through data requests and the media we have found out that these devices have been used hundreds of times by the Bureau and local law enforcement agencies.  These devices have also collected data on innocent people who may be in the area of the suspect that law enforcement targets.

I went through hundreds of pages of the Bureau's inactive criminal investigative files where the Kingfish/Stingray has been used.  I leave after reviewing the files a feeling the Bureau makes it an utmost priority to leave as little as one can any mention of these devices.

Even though the Bureau continues in its realm of secrecy on the spy cell devices, they responded to a request I made a couple of weeks ago.

The data request was based on the following facts.  The Bureau uses the Stingray/Kingfish for their investigative purposes.  Per the BCA inactive criminal investigations I reviewed the devices were only used a handful of times.  On the other hand, the Bureau borrows/arranges for its use to other law enforcement agencies.  The devices are used "roughly" 100 times a year per their spokesperson. (April 23, 2014-----"Senate passes phone surveillance bill" Politics in Minnesota)

I asked for documentation in the borrowing/arranging behavior in the use of the Bureau's Stingray/Kingfish by other Minnesota law enforcement agencies. The use of these devices by other agencies in the "surveillance" of  Minnesotans in my estimation is several hundred times since 2008. What I got in response from the Bureau last week was this:

"Mr. Neumeister,

I am writing to follow-upon this request. 

The information you reference is an estimation based on the current number of times we believe we have used this equipment and not a firm or exact number.  We have no documentation regarding the times we have utilized our cellular exploitation equipment for an outside agency.

Thus, we have no further data responsive to your request at this time. 

Based on the increased level of interest in this technology we are in currently assessing how we document the use of this technology in future cases."