Alaska school computer monitoring raises privacy concerns

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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska school district has introduced a new computer monitoring program prompting concerns over student privacy and data collection.

The Juneau School District installed and launched the Bark program Sept. 13, Juneau Empire reported . An email was sent Sept. 15 with initial details and that more information would be provided to students, parents, staff and board members.

The software monitors for content deemed harmful including school shooters, self-harm, pornography and cyberbullying, school district officials said.

The district sent a second email this week to address concerns after a school meeting Oct. 8, district representatives said.

Superintendent Bridget Weiss also sat down with students Friday to talk about the program and hear any concerns and comments.

There is no opt-out option, which some students said infringes on their rights.

Some parents shared concerns about who was viewing the system's alerts and data.

School officials said the software is intended to monitor the words students use on school computers, flag potential harms and send alerts to officials. It could not be used to read emails or documents that haven't been flagged.

Bark is a California-based company that sells monitoring software, the company website said. More than 1,300 school districts nationwide use the program.

It is unclear how many Alaska school districts are using it.

"I don't have a number, but there are many districts in the state that are using a system, not necessarily Bark," Weiss said.

The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 12.


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire,

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