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This is completely absurd and I'm convinced it solves zero problems. The kids don't know they're being spied on until they do something "wrong". Gaggle (a terrible name btw) claim they prevent suicides and school shootings. This might "work" at first until kids know they are being spied on. Now they know not to send an email saying "I'm going to kill people". All your doing is preventing communication using school provided technology and eroding students trust in the school. You're not actually preventing a shooting. Kids can still do whatever they want and there's nothing you can do to stop it.

On top of that they monitor for profanity. WHY? It doesn't harm anyone and let's people express themselves how they want.

If I was a parent I wouldn't want some random people at a for profit company spying on my child. That's my job.

Do kids still read 1984?

> All your doing is preventing communication using school provided technology and eroding students trust in the school. You're not actually preventing a shooting. Kids can still do whatever they want and there's nothing you can do to stop it.

From the school's perspective, that's likely still considered a success. Lawyers are creative, and school systems (as an extension of the government) are rich targets.

If someone is naive enough to use the school communication system for those things and the monitoring software gets triggered and intervention occurred, then the school has documented proof that they did what they could. If something uses the school system and the monitoring software missed signs of it, then it's the software's fault and not theirs. If someone is shrewd enough to not use the school's system for that because they know it's being monitored, well then you can't blame the school for not seeing messages it had no access to.

Only one of those three scenarios does much to prevent things from happening, and is the least likely one. But all three of the scenarios limit the potential to somehow get a multi-million dollar negligence judgement out of the school if something bad actually happens.

We need an America-specific corollary to Hanlon's razor: "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by an attempt to avoid liability in a maximally litigious society."

So many of these disturbing developments, that people are quick to attribute to an intentional campaign to desensitize people to government surveillance, are really caused by people trying to CYA. That doesn't make them OK, not by a long shot, but if you misunderstand their causes you're not going to get anywhere in pushing back against them.

I agree 100% this is about CYA and not a true interest in preventing bad things. However it is a bad thing in itself, in addition to profanity they police illicit sex contact such as normal underage high school sex, attempts, or discussion. What a nightmare to have that sort of thing be monitored by some private quasi-police security agency (even worse a private company masquerading as a police agency that doesn't have to follow the bill of rights).

I want to throw out though that every fascist and totalitarian movement in the 20th century also had nothing but the best of intentions and was guided by truly moral people who genuinely had the best interests of the people in mind. So saying someone is a good person with well-intentions doesn't mean nothing, it's actually a huge red flag.

Also this is obviously a third party interception of private communications between two parties without consent. It's wiretapping. Wiretapping laws need to be extended to cover textual representations of conversational discourse.

In france some people are using as a defense the line : We prefer to be judged as stupid than criminals ...

So the Hanlon razor can be abused ...


What do you mean, it "can be abused?"

Hanlon's Razor, paraphrased, dictates always to underestimate your enemy and be lethargic. Of course it can be abused.

How on Earth this crap came to be regarded as a piece of "wisdom" is beyond me.

The strategically sound approach is, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, to always assume the actual outcome was the intent, and respond accordingly.

>How on Earth this crap came to be regarded as a piece of "wisdom" is beyond me.

It's fairly true on small-scale interpersonal relations. Still true _sometimes_ on large scale, but that shouldn't make it excusable or remove accountability from the culprits.

> in the absence of evidence to the contrary, always assume the actual outcome was the intent

This is a great maxim and deserves to have a name. Maybe Nolnah's razor?

An even more strategic position would be to assume the outcome was the intent even in spite of evidence to the contrary (which could be faked). And to assume that the worst potential outcome, rather than the actual outcome, was the intent. Those changes are both more strategically sound, so long as we define most strategically sound as 'most resistant to attack'.

For most people, I would argue, the most strategically sound wisdom is that which is most likely to be correct. For this, Hanlon fits the bill. While absolute paranoia is safer, benefit of the doubt is morally better and more rewarding.

If you believe your enemy's actions can be adequately explained by stupidity, I wonder on what basis you've declared them your enemy in the first place.

we do not live in a super litigious society. You're just brainwashed.

Blaming the software and then shrugging "well, we did everything we could" seems to become a pattern to deflect accountability. Worrying

It doesn't just apply to software, it works for any system. The pattern is obvious. Management hears 'x is a problem', they go out and buy the cheapest thing that claims to address x, then they wash their hands and say 'look we handled x'.

Efficacy and root cause analysis are disregarded because management doesn't care about x, they care about not being blamed for x.

Has a school ever been successfully held liable for a school shooting?

How much of this is typical social indoctrination? Teach children early that they are constantly spied on and they'll accept it in their cars, on their phones, in their houses. Total surveillance state.

I'm more and more certain much of this is the result of post-modernism. God is dead. We can no longer expect the fear of hell or desire for heaven to keep us in line, so the state must become the omniscient god watching over us.

> I'm more and more certain much of this is the result of post-modernism. God is dead. We can no longer expect the fear of hell or desire for heaven to keep us in line, so the state must become the omniscient god watching over us.

I wish more people would see our police state through that lens, because hell and heaven never kept people in line and the state will do no better. It's all just metric-driven management... in the long-run, nothing really keeps the masses in line.

> in the long-run, nothing really keeps the masses in line.

Amen. What keeps a society stable for a long time is allowing the masses to go out of line on a regular basis without too much collateral damage. It's like letting some steam escape from a boiling pot so it doesn't boil over.

This is essentially what elections are for: to let people revolt against government power without resorting to violence. But if elections are perceived as not valid, or as ineffective, they can no longer release that tension... and to your point, eventually the masses will get out of line one way or another. The longer it takes, the messier it will be.

Authoritarian governments are not even really intended to create long-term stability. They are corrupt in a very essential way: the people running them know they can't last forever, but they don't care as long as they can give themselves a great life, and put off the explosion until after their (natural, comfortable, long-delayed) death.

incentive structures and monitoring don't influence people's behavior?

People still murdered and committed adultery and broke the Sabbath even after they'd been told that an omniscient being would definitely know and punish them. I think that was the poster's point, anyway.

(not personally religious, or really for surveillance in schools, would probably teach my children to build their skills circumventing it to be honest)

But surely that's a strawman. No one thinks religion would stop all evil or all people, but there certainly seems to be some kind of psychological effect from being brought up in such a framework, which can be observed, for instance, in latent guilt and residual fear of hell and judgement that happens when people leave certain christian sects for instance, which is totally absent and baffling to those not from such a cultural background.

I think its eminently feasible that SOME people are being 'held in line' through explicit or implicit fear of rules/authority/sanctity/hell/punishment/purity/etc provided by religious and social structures.

I suspect I am. Do you not think about what you search for on the internet before you do it? Sometimes I really have to think, "do I want google to know I want to know about this?"

Even if you use DDG, you go to a site with GA on it, google cdn, maybe facebook too, anything with those icons to share with a social media site.

Even searching for symptoms. I was searching for something my girlfriend mentioned the other day and now wondering if I'll start seeing some kind of ad related to the issue.

It's not good.

From anecdote as someone who was brought up in a very religious household and went to an Islamic school for boys over the summer for multiple years, I can't disagree enough. Young religious people tend to be cynical about everything from morality and values to will and work ethics. If you have a son on which you impose a religious lifestyle, you have a good chance that they put an act in front of you.

I eventually became a moral nihilist in theory, but someone that recognizes the importance of values in practice. (like a classical liberal against gambling.) And to tell you the truth, I don't know the proper, working way to instill values and work ethics (especially the latter) in people or kids. I, for once, suspect that I came to appreciate a respectful manner through seeing others shoot themselves in the foot by maintaining a rebellious attitude and feeling disgusted with poor manners at times.

Right-wing Millenials who aspire to be good parents often came to appreciate family values/religious values through the same way I did. by rejecting "degeneracy".

Note: I am not saying that right-wingers are morally superior.

Choosing short term, surreptitious pleasure while ignoring potential punishments after death is nothing like typing a curse word in Google and immediately getting visual feedback that the indiscretion was flagged.

Of course it does, but the state's control is limited to outward behavior in monitored settings. Nothing can forcibly change our internal and individual values.

Every ban invites testing no matter the consequences. Counter-intellectual cultural engineering can mitigate inquisitiveness in the short-term, at the cost of leaving the state blind and vulnerable to disruption.

I mean, increasingly more Millenials [0] support censorship and surveillance when it's for the "right cause". Maybe the result of having grown up with the pressure of social media?

Yet many of them completely miss the problem that somebody has to objectively decide what's the "right cause" and rarely will most people agree on the causes being "right" or "wrong".

[0] https://medium.com/@nayafia/why-do-millennials-support-gover...

> increasingly more Millenials [0] support censorship and surveillance

Not so much support, I'd say - but rather indifferent or "gotten used to it" to the point that it doesn't seem to be a problem in their view. It is much closer to apathy and ignorance.

There is a bit of a generational gap at play here. Most millennials were brought up in rather comfortable conditions. Food, health, stable life, education -- for them this is the world how it always have been and always will be. Fascism, world wars, dictatorships -- all that is a distant news on tv (that they don't even watch or have) or in history books (books? what are those?)

Also, with the never-ending facebook newsfeed, that automagically shows them things that they already agree with, fewer and fewer want to leave that bubble.

In other words, millenials are ok with total surveillance because they do not fathom the real implications of what survelliance state is going to be. They have nothing to "compare it to", no intuition, nothing to relate to. For them it will "never happen".

... which means when it happens, it will be really, really bad. It is akin to having early symptoms of cancer, but if you have never been close to such tragedy in real life, you just go on ignoring the symptoms, go on until it is too late.

I guess it is a fate of every generation, some kind of 3 generational "gap":

1st generation - experiences it, puts in laws and organizations to prevent it from happening in future (examples are United Nations after WW2, nuclear non-proliferation treaties between US and Soviet Union, etc.)

2nd generation - happy / golden generation that still knows remembers the lessons of the 1st one and enjoys the safeguards instituted after the events that are keeping them safe.

3rd generation - decadence and calm before the storm. No one is alive from 1st generation to tell them the horrors of the world wars first hand. 2nd generation are "old timers" and essentially ignored. Personal experience of the 3rd generation is comfort, convenience and never ending entertainment.

For the lack of a better metaphor: Winter is Coming.

This is not an uncommon observation, and it even has a section on Atomic Rockets of all places.


It's called the Three Generation Rule, and it's no small part of why I've personally taken it upon myself to try to find a way to make sure any kids or friends I come in semi-regular contact have acquire appreciation for how current infrastructure was arrived at, and understand that none of it is a given.

Unfortunately, I'm not the most successful at it, because I'm pretty sure taking the time to collate all this information on the infrastructural pedigree of modern life in your head tends to come with a tendency toward hermitude.

Also coincidentally, hardly anyone seems to want to know about it.

“Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.“

Ehh, I'm not so sure this analogy really holds.

1) That would make the previous 3rd generation before this current iteration (one cycle ago) the generation that experienced WW1 - they'd hardly be ignorant of the horrors of world war.

2) Boomers (your 2nd generation) went through Vietnam and the cold war, so I'm not sure they often felt like the UN was safeguarding them from, well, anything.

3) Boomers also seem to be indifferent and apathetic about climate change, so I'm not sure how that really fits into the narrative.

The most likely answer is that most people just feel indifferent about things that feel out of their control. Boomers likely didn't spend every waking minute about how close they were at several points to being ended by thermonuclear war.

Hell, even for the greatest generation (well, except for Murrow obviously) let McCarthy run rampant right after WW2 until he tried to go after the army.

with the pressure of social media

I'm not really sure if it's pressure of social media or post-911, 24/7-breaking-news, always trying to manipulate audiences with emotional triggers.

Really? The result of post-modernism?

That seems to suggest to me that you're saying that if the primacy of the authoritarian-religious-mindset had stayed around, such an effect wouldn't have happened.

Now, I can respect that there are a minority of relatively liberal religious traditions, but it seems to me that surveillance and monitoring and censorship would be something that you would predict would be pushed by such an authoritarian religious mindset had it stayed around, not caused by a crumbling of its authority.

Surely the common thread here is authoritarianism, and neither religion nor its downfall in the post-modern era, and the reason its happening now is purely because we have the technological means.

I think OP meant that the backlash of conservatives to post modernism was to go for authoritarianism. It uses to be that conservatives felt that the fear of god would keep society decent. With that gone, they need to reach for something else.

Intentional or not, that's precisely what will happen.

If I were a student and knew about that I'd purposefully put in a variety of words and phrases that might get flagged in every email

And if I were your parent, I'd seriously look into moving you to a less abusive school.

In small towns there's often no choice. There's only one high school in Santa Fe.

Yes, this is true. Sometimes doing right for your kids requires a great deal of sacrifice.

When my eldest was in primary school in a very small town, they implemented a surveillance system that I (and a lot of other parents) objected greatly to. There was no other school in the area, and home-schooling was not an option for us.

It took a year or so, but we resolved the situation by moving to another city.

Time to do a report on Scunthorpe

Funny story.. back in 2000 a new boss starts at UK govt agency with student focus. This is around University entrance time. He wants to stamp some authority and show he knows better than the last boss. To add some context he was a Londoner in Scotland who obviously knew better than the great unwashed north of the border. Pretty much the first thing he does is look at the flagged words list on incoming emails. Why he felt this level of micromanaging would endear him to his Scottish team is lost to time. Anyway, he snorted and with a smirk berated the admin team for leaving out "cunt" and told them to add it in. The admin team, said nothing and did what they were told and waited.... Over the weekend over 10000 emails were flagged and had to be manually read by the small admin team, who were used to a small amount every week. Our London friend handed his notice in within 6 months :)

Does the word have a different meaning in Scotland or is it just not considered offensive?

In Scotland, the north of England, and Australia, you'll often hear 'cunt' used as a term of endearment between good friends. It's a banter thing.

Then you'd be doing a "violation" and get a warning. Presumably some in-school punishment for repeat violations.

In this context, I'd be encouraging my children to do this (and certainly take the blame for them); false positives ftw! It'd be a great, teachable moment where I can discuss many sociological, technological, and ethical issues at once. On top of that I can teach them a thing or two about opsec.

The school is really at a loss here for retribution: in many instance the students are required to use the school's equipment for completing assignments and projects. So the worst they can really do is "restrict" usage -- but that isn't really any different than what they already do. So it's a bit of a headache for me and the kid(s)? A small price to pay for demonstrating the hilarious shortcomings of implementing a technological solution to a purely human problem -- one that requires specially trained humans to fix.

(Of course I'd make sure the kid(s) give me their blessing before messing with the school)

On another note: I have extensive experience working for school districts. This is absolutely a CYA attempt with no foresight into what the outcome of this terrible experiment will be. These solutions tend to be hacked together, easy to circumvent, and poorly implemented. While I have no direct experience with the product mentioned, I do have experience with school-focused solutions. We had to pay the extra money for purely commercial solutions to get anything that was worth the money.

This is not a false positive, attempts to subvert or sabotage surveillance clearly indicate latent antisocial tendencies and should be punished to the full extent of the law. Please report yourself to the nearest Malcontent Utilization Facility, citizen!

While this might sound like a joke or an exaggeration, this kind of authoritarianism is spreading like wildfire in the US.

i got it. not sure why you're being downvoted.

Hacker News doesn’t like jokes.

Or rather, if you’re going to make a joke, it had better be as part of a substantive comment that exists to do more than just tell a joke.

That wasn't a joke of the, "Why did the chicken cross the road?" sort. Satire can be used to illustrate a point, often more effectively than plain-old words; hence, the comment is no longer grayed out.

Technically only second part was intended as a joke. First part is how I honestly expect the school to take such interference.

There's plenty of space for triggering false positives.

"I wonder if I'm gay.", "I read that if you drink bleach it could kill you", or just meta "what happens if I put the phrase XYZ here?".

Sounds like a good opportunity for a civics lesson. Today's subject: mass civil disobedience.

Given the article's description of the company's hiring process, it seems like it would be straightforward for a group of high school students to become ‘Safety Representatives’ and… act creatively.

Well said. As the article states, it is indeed a solution in wait of a problem. Also don't discount the possibility that the school may have a need to be seen doing something (meaningful or not).

1984 it is indeed.

Welcome to the modern mentality of alleged criminals being guilty until proven innocent. We have our Bill of Rights for a reason here in America but some lessons are easily forgotten.

> We have our Bill of Rights for a reason here in America

What's been implicitly added is "For adults only".

Whatever the under-18 class of "children" (except when they aren't!) don't have rights.

In many (most? all?) states children are effectively still property. For example, in many states it's legal for parents to steal wages from their children even if their children are high school graduates with a work permit - all based on age.

Happened to someone I know. She had a well-paying job but her parents basically stole all the income, naturally making it harder to move out with no savings.

That's really disturbing that someone's parents would steal their children's money if it's legally acquired.

Exactly. And if you bring up a generation of kids who have been normalized to the idea of constant surveillance and censorship, they're less likely to assert their rights as adults. Many of them will even learn the lesson that surveillance and censorship are good things that save lives. It's insidious and disgusting.

The monitoring of children is such an insidious topic because it is so easy for the average reasonable person to justify. I know my own Mother has felt parental guilt that she location-track me and my young sister, because, what if something happens? Children generally get less independence and rights than adults and we do this because it is always adults that have to be responsible for their wellbeing. So it is very easy to justify this kind of montoring, and at least here, there are likely legal obligations for schools to do so.

My school in Australia did it completely transparently through a company named "CyberHound" of all things. It advertises in a similar way "protect the children from mental health issues" by running an MITM[1] on all SSL traffic over your school network to inspect all all the push notifications, webpages et cetera sent to your students' devices. The difference is this was transparent and consenting[2].

The thing is I would not expect any institution's internal network to be un-logged, be that the company I work for, or a school or government. Passive logging of internet sessions and metadata is totally acceptable, its this kind of analysis and information sharing that can be really harmful.

Although I suppose I only say that because my shool actually had mental health support that was very visibly available, and the tracking was quite easily circumvented.

1: Root certificate we have to install on devices

2: All school machines have an "I agree to acceptable use" prompt on login and we have to install certificates ourselves.

I kind of can't help myself since I'm in a similar space...


I even wrote back in 2015 about analyzing your email (school in my case): https://austingwalters.com/analyzing-email-data/

The truth is companies will do anything to mitigate risk. Knowing or even thinking you can know what someone can do can mitigate that risk. This has a potential savings that can literally be greater than your companies entire net worth.

So, systems like this will continue to get more pervasive.

>On top of that they monitor for profanity. WHY? It doesn't harm anyone and lets people express themselves how they want.

The war against profanity is strictly a Puritan, I mean American, thing.

In most sensible countries in Europe (read: those still not devoutly religious), profanity on the "state-run" TV stations is a normative part of life (e.g.: "helvete" or "fan" in Swedish - https://youtu.be/4ofbqaLiPe4).

The worst of it is that kids learn being monitored is normal and "a good thing". Something far too many adults are already comfortable with.

In the current climate, if you can create a product a school can refer to to prove they are doing everything for the safety of your kids, you can probably decide the price yourself.

But I agree that this is probably one of the worst ways a school could help reduce these kind of problems.

1984 is boring. Point them to Demolition Man and Minority Report instead.

It is pretty well established that people are allowed to speak their mind in our society, but they better be ready for the consequences!

I’ve observed “if I were a parent” may be a nonsense phrase. I’m not aware of any parents who still hold the same beliefs across the board as their preconceptions of how they’d think about their kids.

Just because people often report the experience of massive perspectival shifts after becoming a parent doesn't actually elevate their authority on the matter, or invalidate the opinions/beliefs of non-parents. That's just a straight up fallacy. I'm not saying the average parent doesn't have relatively more authority on matters of parenting than the average non-parent, but there's nothing inherent about becoming a parent that justifies radically elevating the epistemic status of their beliefs about parenting.

I knew someone would say this. I almost used "as a parent" instead. Hacker news and the internet in general is full of people making opinions about things they aren't experts in and that's okay.

I wonder why parenting is the one that always triggers this kind of response. "You have to be a parent to have an opinion about parenting." What if I had said "if I worked for Gaggle" or "if I was a teacher". Would you have the same response?

I think it's a combination of being tired of constantly feeling judged on a very personal part of your life and a feeling that the dependency and inconvince a child, especially a small child, adds to your life is unmatched by almost anything else, giving other little experience to draw from when criticizing or otherwise "trying to help". Even when coming from other parents, unsolicited "advice" can be annoying because every child is different and every parent likes to parent differently.

I have observed the above re: parent vs. not yet parent.

Haven’t observed such a universal perspective shift across other fields of ‘expertise’, nor do those perspectives seem to shift until after more experience, while with parenting it seems to often shift on first realization (“at first sight”).

So no, “if I were a teacher” or “if I worked in medicine” and the like don’t seem as likely to be subject to change.

// Just to be clear: not saying this as a parent. I am not a parent.

There needs to be a name for the reverse Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect. I.e., "You don't have the right piece of paper/you're from the wrong background/insert other personal attack here, therefore you're not qualified to comment." It's an annoying, cheap way to dismiss a perfectly good argument via ad-hominem means rather than actual reasoning.

On the bright side (well, less dark side really) at least it teaches the kids a very important lesson about putting things in writing while they are young and stakes are low.

"Give me six lines written by the most polite kid, and our contractor's child safety system will find enough in them to expel him."

Look, I agree 100% this tech is creepy, invasive, and bad but your argument that it doesn't prevent bad behavior (the extreme of which is school shootings) doesn't seem true at face value (honestly I have no idea but neither do you). Yes of course very determined and very smart kids might still get away with it but there is a very good chance it actually does decrease the rate of these incidents significantly.

The argument you are making is basically identical to the old "guns don't kill people" argument which actually has been proven completely false. Similarly, minimal suicide prevention measures (like fences on bridges, or again lack of access to guns) while they can usually be circumvented by the extremely determined do usually prevent suicides.

> The argument you are making is basically identical to the old "guns don't kill people" argument which actually has been proven completely false. Similarly, minimal suicide prevention measures (like fences on bridges, or again lack of access to guns) while they can usually be circumvented by the extremely determined do usually prevent suicides.

How do you measure the efficacy of a fence on a bridge? By the number of suicides by jumping off a bridge or by looking at the suicide numbers in aggregate? Of course it would reduce suicide by jumping but is it actually reducing suicide generally or only a specific method?

We have a couple of natural experiments.

England changed from coal gas to natural gas. That prevented one very common method, and it led to a drop in total suicide rates.

It took a while for method substitution to happen.

We also saw similar drops when catalytic convertors were added to cars in the UK.

One of the important parts of reducing access to means an methods is to cause people to switch to less lethal methods. Removing access to coproxamol (in the UK) saved lives because people switched to other meds. Any overdose is dangerous, but some overdoses are less likely to be lethal if medical attention is sought quickly.

England changed the quantities of paracetamol that people could buy. This link only talks about self-poisoning (so it doesn't address the method substitution) but it does talk about characteristics of some people who chose this method: did they go to buy the meds or did they use what was in the home? Were they able to buy large quantities or did the legislation work? What was the length of time between having the initial thought of wanting to overdose and then carrying out the act? http://cebmh.warne.ox.ac.uk/csr/resparacet.html

At the moment one of the strongest recommendations we can make for suicide prevention is to reduce access to means and methods, because that has clear evidence to support it.

You can hear Professor Nav Kapur talk about it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWPEVhrWZS0&t=415s

The NCISH will probably have more information or links to research about method substitution: https://sites.manchester.ac.uk/ncish/

It's important that removing access to means and methods is not the only thing we do! It's important, but it's only a part of a package of suicide prevention measures.

> How do you measure the efficacy of a fence on a bridge? By the number of suicides by jumping off a bridge or by looking at the suicide numbers in aggregate?

You don't look at "suicides", you look at self inflicted deaths. You look at self inflicted deaths from people jumping from high places, and you look at the total number of self inflicted death in the area. So far we strongly think that fencing off places like multi-story car-parks saves life and reduces total numbers of self-inflicted deaths.

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