Surveillance in Australian schools

July 15, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Flickr photoIn a recent post, I returned to my pet topic of the surveillance society and told you about the UK Government giving the green light to fingerprinting school kids as young as 5 years and news of a New Zealand day care centre with kiddie cam. I intended to go off and find out about Australian schools, but I didn’t need to do any nosing around as in came this article from The Sydney Morning Herald in my RSS feed.

Seems NSW classrooms are being fitted out for webcams. Some schools already have CCTV/webcams in public areas of the school grounds such as playgrounds and sports areas. But this is one step further: in the classroom.

Before law, I was a teacher (many different careers, many different disguises!). And if I were still a teacher, I’d be pretty concerned about this and it seems the NSW Teachers’ Federation is a tad worried too. Many teachers have spoken up about privacy concerns – it’s the same old list I’ve mentioned before really:

  • how will the images be used?
  • how long will they be stored for?
  • what if a child or parent does not give consent?
  • who’s monitoring the webcams?
  • will the images be destroyed once the child leaves the school?
  • what’s the guarantee against inappropriate use of images?
  • how do you know images of children won’t suddenly turn up on some “adults only” internet site?
  • how does knowing you’re being surveilled affect the teacher?

Reading this article, I was reflecting back on my teaching days. No camera phones where school kids could take footage of the teacher and classroom interactions and plaster them all over MySpace or Facebook. This is known as sousveillance: when ordinary people grab a camera and watch the watchers.

Glad I’m no longer a teacher; and glad I’m not a kid in today’s surveillance society.

Entry filed under: CCTV, Privacy, Public webcams, Schools and schoolchildren, Surveillance society.

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