Latest News and Comment from Education

Saturday, August 18, 2018

COPPA in the Smart Home: Who Protects Our Children’s Data?

COPPA in the Smart Home: Who Protects Our Children’s Data?

Inside the Decades-Long Fight to Protect Your Children’s Data From Advertisers

Photo-Illustration: Jed Egan, Photos: Getty Images

When Kathryn Montgomery walked into the Digital Kids conference in New York, she didn’t know what to expect. This was 1995 — the internet was new and full of promise. She still believed that access to books and unlimited information could mean a lot for children’s development.
But sitting through presentations on online playgrounds populated by the likes of Chester Cheetah and Ronald McDonald — places where kids could build personal relationships with these corporate mascots — she began to feel panicked. The internet was supposed to be something different, but the ad men from Madison Avenue just saw a new opportunity. They wanted one-to-one advertising and they wanted to target kids.
Montgomery went back to Washington, D.C., and told her husband, Jeff Chester, and the rest of their team at the Center for Media Education about what she’d seen. Right away, they began working on a report that would become Web of Deception, a study that documented the way companies were using websites to target children. They filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and, within two years, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) passed through Congress and was signed into law.
That 1998 legislation, which has been updated by the FTC multiple times since its passage, is still the most stringent internet privacy law on the books. Today, kids under 13 are the only class of American internet user who must opt in rather than opt out of having their data collected. (Children under 13 were identified as a class especially vulnerable to the effect of targeted marketing.) At the time, Chester explained the collection of cookies — small bits of information about a user’s browsing history that travel with that user — as “Orwellian” to the press. Two decades later, the characterization seems quaint. Today, Montgomery and Chester face a much more existential fight for privacy online: the Internet of Things. They’re helping to lead a cadre of activist groups in a battle against some of the largest companies on the planet, and Apple, Google, Amazon, and the rest of the tech world are now entrenched forces in Washington. Chester admits: “We would never have been able to get COPPA through Congress today.”
Even at a time of growing public distrust of social media, consumers are rushing to put the tech industry’s voice-activated devices into their homes. In April, there was reporting about an Amazon patent which posited technology that could eavesdrop on all conversations around Alexa and then send recommendations to users. Though the patent is forward-looking, it led to a news cycle of Big Brother–fueled fear regarding Amazon’s devices. And yet, sales of smart speakers in the United States more than tripled from 2016 to 2017, according to research from the Consumer Technology Association. A Canalys report from January projects 2018 U.S. sales to eclipse 38 million units.
Montgomery remembers the moment she first saw a television — she was four or five and her father lugged it home to set up in the living room. Montgomery and Chester’s daughter, who is in her mid-20s, is of the generation that remembers their first connected device (this writer remembers playing BrickBreaker on his father’s Blackberry at the age of 15). But the next generation will have spoken to a device before they form memories. “When all of this becomes part of the automobile that you drive, the appliances that you use, when it’s all become so much a seamless part of your everyday life,” Montgomery explains, “it will be easy to forget what the potential is of this system to really do harm by invading our privacy.”
The husband-and-wife team believe the moment to regulate privacy in IoT is right now, before everyone has a voice-activated speaker in every room. So the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the subsequent piqued interest in privacy and data protection seemed fortuitously timed for their mission. But seeing senator after senator stumble through their questioning of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg discouraged the activist couple. “It was embarrassing,” Montgomery says. “And the Internet of Things, of course, is now moving forward so quickly and nobody quite grasps that either.”
It’s instructive to think of Jeff Chester as an Old Testament prophet or Howard Beale from Network. He speaks quickly, rarely finishing his sentences before he’s onto another point. He’s an expert on the internet, and that expertise keeps him perpetually annoyed — Continue reading: COPPA in the Smart Home: Who Protects Our Children’s Data?

What Betsy Devos Did Before Becoming Education Secretary Shows She's Long Been A GOP Powerhouse

What Betsy Devos Did Before Becoming Education Secretary Shows She's Long Been A GOP Powerhouse
What Betsy Devos Did Before Becoming Education Secretary Shows She's Long Been A GOP Powerhouse

Betsy DeVos is a wealthy, Christian, conservative Midwesterner who also happens to be the current U.S. Secretary of Education. She's a businesswoman who’s known best for her efforts to promote school choice, a controversial idea that critics say takes money out of public schools. But what did DeVos do before she started working as Trump's secretary education?
DeVos comes from family money, both from her parents and her husbands’. Her dad, Edgar Prince, founded a company that eventually came to be worth a billion dollars, according to Politico, a fortune that was built in part due to innovations like a light-up vanity mirror on the sun visor in cars. Her father-in-law founded the lucrative marketing company Amway.
Even before she pulled up a seat to the table in Washington, DeVos was a power player. In fact, the DeVos family fortune is so plentiful that they get help managing their funds from a family office named RDV Corp., which has something called a Family Council made up of DeVos relatives who vote on family business decisions, according to theWall Street Journal. (DeVos resigned from the council in 2016.)
One perk of having so much money and power is that the DeVoses are loaded with assistants. Through RDV Corp.'s Family Council, they reportedly have a household administrative assistant, a person who makes sure “doors are well-oiled,” and a “boat matinee assistant” who is tasked with making sure proper table etiquette is followed, among other things, WSJ reported. They even have an assistant for the Christmas season, including managing the Christmas card list, wrapping presents, and coming up with gift ideas for the DeVoses and their business associates.
Given her breadth of experience, some might say DeVos, 60, is a jack of all trades — but certainly almost all of those trades have had something to do with promoting Christian and conservative ideas.

What DeVos Did Before She Was Secretary Of Education

DeVos started getting active in politics at a young age. As a freshman earning her degree in business economics at Christian liberal arts Calvin College in the ‘70s in Grand Rapids, Michigan, she volunteered for Gerald Ford’s presidential campaign, as Politico's Zack Stanton reported in a profile about the secretary.
She got involved with the Republican Party starting in 1982, with school choice almost always at the top of her agenda of important issues to take on. She served as the National Committeewoman in Michigan from 1992 to 1997 and was the chair of the state’s Republican Party from 1996 to 2000, as The New York Times reported.
She resigned in 2000 after the state’s governor at the time, John Engler, opposed her ideas to change the laws surrounding school vouchers. But after Engler was out of office, she was re-elected in 2003.
She also served as a chair of the privately held investment company, Windquest Continue reading: What Betsy Devos Did Before Becoming Education Secretary Shows She's Long Been A GOP Powerhouse

Opinion | The Bane That Is Betsy DeVos - The New York Times -

Transgender students asked Betsy DeVos for help. Here's what happened. - POLITICO

Transgender students asked Betsy DeVos for help. Here's what happened. - POLITICO
Transgender students asked Betsy DeVos for help. Here's what happened.
The Trump administration 'has absolutely no clue' what families go through, one mother said.

Alex Howe dreaded the long walk he had to take just to use the bathroom at his Texas high school — two unisex stalls in the middle of the sprawling building, far from his classrooms.

Because he’s a transgender boy, his school district barred him from the much more convenient boy’s restrooms. “It was isolating and alienating,” Howe, who was identified at birth as female, told POLITICO, the first time he has spoken publicly about being a transgender high school kid. And it didn’t stop there.

Conservative parents told the debate coach they didn’t want Howe sharing a room with their sons on trips to competitions. The frustrated coach argued that Howe should be treated the same as the other kids, but school administrators sided with the parents and wouldn’t budge. He roomed alone, singled out again.

Howe struggled with depression and his mother, Stacey Burg, said the treatment at school took its toll. “He would see his therapist and they would increase his antidepressants,” she said. “He would say it’s school work and debate, but I thought it was more. He was stressed all the time. He was upset, he was depressed, he was anxious. He would get angry at home.”

After his graduation in 2017 Howe filed a complaint with federal civil rights officials at the Department of Education, hoping to ease the way for other transgender students at his school to use the bathrooms of their choice. But an examination of federal records by POLITICO shows that his complaint is one of at least five involving transgender students denied bathroom access that was thrown out by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has halted such investigations.

Another transgender student interviewed by POLITICO and also speaking publicly for the first time said his bathroom-related complaint hasn’t been dismissed, but his case has stalled for three years. He doesn’t know why.

Both Howe and the second student, who wants to be identified only by his first name, Drake, described the human cost of DeVos’ decision to turn down and hold Continue reading: Transgender students asked Betsy DeVos for help. Here's what happened. - POLITICO