[WHERE’S MY PRIVACY] Ep. 4: School Network Capabilities (Safety and Limitations)

John Becker, Staff Writer

John Becker: Hello everyone and welcome to “Where’s My Privacy?” My name is John Becker, I will be walking you through the safety and limitations we have on school networks, and what are able to search up on school network.
Joining me today is Lyle Menard, a Junior here at SPA, who withholds the knowledge to answer some lingering questions regarding the usage of our online data here at St. Paul Academy.
What types of privacy steps does SPA take towards ensuring student safety online?

Lyle Menard: There are not any methods that SP uses that I’m aware of that protects students’ privacy.

JB: Yeah. Um, so. Say, say like I’m on a school network. Can the tech department like view my recent like browser history?

LM: So, the tech department. The tech department can view it.
Um, anything you’ve done when logged into a school, you’re the school provided Google account of the school gives you on Chrome. No matter what device you use it on like if you use your desktop, you’re logged into your school provided account and you are using a chrome account if you were using. If you are using Google Chrome, and on that instance of Google Chrome you’re logged into your school account, the school could theoretically see what you were doing it went well you are logged in to that account in that window. If I was to open up another window and log into another account I still have my Google account open but I search something in the window that I have a personal account on, they wouldn’t be able to see that they can only see what you do on your school account within Chrome. They can also hypothetically, see things that you do on any device with any account while you’re on the school’s network, but the school does not necessarily look at any of this information, as far as I or anyone else to talk to is aware. There aren’t any instances of them actually using this information whether from the Google account or from their Wi Fi, or even like looking at it.

JB: So if I’m at home, they are not capable like theoretically they could or not.

LM: So, again, it depends if you’re at home on like, if you’re at home on your school laptop, but you use it, like most people, I think it’s the sense of at the school. If you use Chrome, with like a different account like I have my personal account on Chrome I have my Google my school account from. If I use my personal account. There’s no way for the school to see that. But here’s my personal account. Hypothetically, the school is able to see the browsing history on that account specifically, no matter where you are, no matter what device you’re using it from, but they cannot see what you’re doing on your lap, they can. Other than that they cannot see what you’re doing on your laptop at home, they cannot see
what you do on all the devices, unless you’re logged into the school’s internet.

JB: Interesting. So, you know, it kind of goes off like browsing history and a lot of people search up a lot of different things and play a lot of games. So, how does the administration or like the technology staff determine whether or not a website should be banned on school WiFi.

LM: So, as far as I’m aware, there are a few factors to it. The main like big one is like super like inappropriate content for school like I’m, you know like, pornography sites and stuff are blocked. There’s also some gaming websites like I know Epic Games which they host fortnight are banned, but other websites are not. I think the primary way they decide it is not about. It’s not like I don’t think it’s necessarily a productivity thing. It’s about bandwidth. So, downloading a game like fortnight fortnight’s like 20 gigabytes so if you download that you’re taking up 20 gigabytes of storage of the bandwidth that. And if you don’t download it all at once but like over the course of the day well it’s downloading at school, that’s taking up like 20 gigabytes of bandwidth overall bandwidth being like the measure of how much data has been given out to, like, each individual students Wi-Fi or each individual students laptop.

JB: And so, the say like, if, if you are they downloading more than what they give to you. Does that have like a cost effect on the school?

LM: It doesn’t cost them money directly or anything like that. They, you know like, the school like most people just pay for the internet and then you can use it as much as you want. But they do pay for a certain bandwidth so like, I don’t know how much the school gets but like basically you have like, it’s like if you have like a, it’s like if you have like a stream of water, and everybody that’s using the internet is taking a, like a little like tap off that stream of water. Um, and so like there’s only so much you know there’s only so much water that’s flowing through at one time. So yeah, you can’t have like,
I mean you could have. You can have as many people doing stuff as you want. It’s just that there, it gets slower for everyone as more people use more bandwidth.

JB: Okay, that makes sense. Okay then. So, this kind of goes back a little bit to the SPA like being able to view your browser from the home, but can they use anything to like to monitor the computers throughout the day, like not them, but as a program.

LM: So, as far as I’m aware. No. The. There was for a short time during the 2018 school year, there was a plugin that was installed on everyone’s laptops, called HIPAA highlights that was able to, like, monitor what applications you had to open. On your computer, and let the school like view your screen at any point, and see what websites you had opened, and that wouldn’t necessarily be tied to your Google account, but that was, that was installed that was a fluke they were trying to try it out on like one device and accidentally rolled it out for the entire school. And it’s not, it’s not being used now, and it was never intended to be. It was never intended to be installed on everyone’s device.
So other than that. No.

JB: Isn’t there a program like, like, I think lag or something like that like, if you have something inappropriate like notify you

LM: There’s a program gaggle.But the program can look through your school provided Google Drive and emails that send emails you send from your school account, or receive from a school or school receive on your school account any files you saved to your Google Drive. That can be seen and paged by that program. It can be seen on page by the program, and it will highlight certain instances of stuff that don’t like, you know, prevent profane words and stuff, and like it, it can check images using semi-accurate. Using semi-accurate like image tracking to find images. I’ve heard of students getting images flagged for self-harm. And it does fall it occasionally falsifies stuff but no matter whether or not it’s a legit or false flag the school. Isn’t, you’re not going to get expelled for having something in there, then, you know, I’ve personally been in contact like I was writing an English paper. And I use something in the context of totally acceptable and doesn’t like to delete it immediately it just notifies the school. And then like, they can manually see it. And though either contact you about it, or they’ll be like, oh that’s obviously an English paper. But even if they contact you about it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in trouble and doesn’t necessarily mean that you did anything wrong either it’s just they could be checking off something.

JB: Okay, so my final question is, basically, what club Are you part of or group?

LM: I’m part of the STC which is a student technology committee.

JB: Yeah, so I understand that you have to like, stay neutral, but do you have any final regards about how SP handles her privacy?

JB: Yeah, Sure. So, um, I understand. I definitely understand why people aren’t worried about privacy. It’s something I care about myself a lot and I mean it’s it’s a right, I think, I think digital privacy just like physical real privacy is an important thing to have. And I think it’s, I think it should be like a fundamental right for everyone. I think as long as you are not as long as what you are doing is either. As long as what you’re doing is not on your school’s Google account, and you’re not like. I mean, first of all the school does not even like check the internet browsing history so you’ve nothing to worry about there. There’s all, there isn’t really anything privacy-wise that I’d be worried about from the school. Except for the stuff that can plug in your Google account which is like, use a different tool you use your personal Google account. If you don’t have one you can make one in like two seconds. But privacy, including digital privacy, is very important. And it’s definitely a good thing that people are worried about it.
And yeah it’s just, you know, it’s important to, like, definitely watch out in other areas not just SPA for ways that they’re definitely like a lot of ways for your privacy to be mishandled. And so definitely lookout for that. But I think in SPA, there’s not any. I don’t think there’s any big reason to be concerned about free digital privacy.

JB: Good, thank you all for your statements!

LM: Anytime john

JB: Thanks for joining me, Lyle Menard. Tune into other stories from our podcast series from Aryun Nemani, Tommy Verhey, and Thomas Reinhart. From everyone on “Where’s My Privacy,” thank you.