​When an EduTech Company With Chinese Ownership Knows More About Your Kids Than You Do

George Orwell’s 1984 featured television as a technology used by a totalitarian state to monitor - and even threaten - it’s citizens. In an interview on the radio in the mid-80’s I recall Timothy Leary saying that Orwell got it wrong. That, in fact, we line up to watch Big Brother on TV. We didn’t have to be monitored because every corporation knew where we were most evenings (and increasingly throughout the day): in front of our televisions.

Several decades and a few iterations in technological innovation later, it's now known where we are just about 24-7. Your cell phone is your electronic bracelet, and all that's keeping you from having your daily life's most minute and routine and even intimate habits being immediately saved in a data base on a server somewhere is corporate privacy policy or intrusive government regulations.

But could Timothy Leary still be right? Isn't the outrage over Google and Facebook's censoring of conservative videos, blogs, or FB pages really about being denied the opportunity to participate in the digital public square? And yes, that means exposing yourself or your organization to public scrutiny of every last tweet you ever tapped out on your phone. As well as running the risk of having most of your life on a data base, ready to be sold to who knows which company or which organization, from who knows which country.

A grown up is of course allowed to - obligated to really in today's world - make those kind of trade-offs every day. But how about her teenagers who document and share everything ?Including passwords of all kinds? And how about smaller children? Where the agency resides in people or organizations far away perhaps.

Consider a piece by Jane Robbins in The Federalist. It's about educational and gaming online platforms that are being bought up increasingly by the Chinese. She says the following:

Once China has access to the billions of highly personal data points from the millions of users of the technology it's buying up, what can we expect about the future of data security? We know that neither U.S. companies nor the U.S. government can keep sensitive information secure, so a less motivated foreign company isn't likely to do a better job. And the NetDragon official admits his company doesn't understand the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and isn't sure how to comply with it, especially since his company is interested in "targeting our users [with products]."

But there's a problem beyond the troubling possibility that China will likely be playing an increasingly important role in the content of various educational and gaming platforms that kids are and will be using. Millennials and their younger brothers and sisters don't care about privacy. Or don't bother to understand about privacy. Lack of privacy to them just is. An accepted fact of the mostly digital world they inhabit.

Privacy - especially of one's data profile - is becoming an increasingly sensitive political and legal issue precisely because there is so little left of it in today's world. It is a scarce commodity that even the rich and powerful have very little of. Witness #MeToo, where money and power cannot shield you anymore, and more than that, the complete lack of discretion in too much of our behavior online.

The implications of Robbins' assertion that China will be helping shape our children's minds is so disturbing because China is merely a worse scenario than what government in America is already doing. The Foundations for Evidence Based Policymaking Act (FEPA) encourages data sharing between different government agencies on a level that is so granular that an application for Federal Student Aid has over 100 data points you are required to submit. You can see it at Robbins' article at truthinamericaneducation.com. And FEPA may allow for the possibility of all that data to be used by 3rd parties for research. You think Cambridge Analytica was the problem??

In the end, an edutech company with majority Chinese ownership will (or already does) know more about your teenage daughter than you do. Privacy - what little is left of it - must be safeguarded. How to do that will require some careful thought. That we must do that is now painfully clear.

Posted by Keeley at May 14, 2018 6:51 PM
Comment #426950

More obscurantism diverting from anything of current interest. China may be trying to protect their investment in our debt by claiming ownership of the future generation of children. The right wing is probably okay with that, or their owners are anyway.

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Comment #426973

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Posted by: Bocoran Sgp at May 15, 2018 9:29 AM
Comment #426982

Oh No, this site is back again! So Dumpty completed the hat trick or trifecta of subservience with China this week. More “fabrique en chine” on everything we buy. I bought a solar powered cardinal today. Will Dumpty go for the superfecta, who will be the fourth chosen, and in what order will they be ranked? Will putain get mad if he doesn’t rank first, and will he get mad enough to release whatever “tapes” he has from dumpty’s days as a s3x tourist in St.Petersburg? (not the so-called pp tape). He came back and bragged to friends that the women there had no morals. He wouldn’t know a moral himself if it was sitting on his face.

Epitaph for the fried egg, based on an historic one:

Here’s lies a dissembling wretch, whose promise none relied on, he would only say a foolish thing and never did a wise one.

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