Students Face Loss of Privacy at Schools With Tracking Data Programs

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Apr 24, 2022 | 0 Comments

George Washington University (GW) has issued an apology for failing to disclose to students, faculty, and school staff that a semester-long data analytics program had monitored and captured their locations. Using 6,000 Cisco Wi-Fi points at the institution's campuses, GW Information Technology (GWIT) engaged in the pilot tracking data program via a “free trial” with Texas-based behavioral analytics company Degree Analytics, InsideHigherED reports.

In a letter to the campus community, GW interim President Mark Wrighton explained that the project sought to “determine density and use of buildings by students, faculty, and staff in the aggregate” to provide a better roadmap to plan for emergencies and “operational priorities.” Although the locational data obtained through student-connected devices “de-identified student data...GWIT did attach descriptors to the data, so it was not completely anonymized,” Wrighton said. Moreover, the president stated that even though the “technical capacity may exist to track individuals across our campus, such a capacity was not utilized nor contemplated in this pilot and no individualized data tracking or movement across our campus was ever shared.”

Tracking Data Hinders Personal Information Security

Regardless of the seemingly benign nature of the pilot program, there is a possibility that such ventures could be used for nefarious purposes. According to a report in The Washington Post, GW spokesperson Crystal L. Nosal stated, “Any data collected as part of the project that has not already been destroyed will be.” The question of destroying saved information makes it clear that the technology from Degree Analytics can retain invasive data gathered on students, faculty, and staff members.

This data could include location-based details about a student or faculty member's life, possibly containing sensitive information that could cause severe harm to their reputations if it were leaked. Some companies may sell the tracking data, share it with third parties, or even report it to law enforcement agencies without the person's knowledge.

You may think, “How could this data be used to harm me or anyone I know?” Here are a few examples:

  • Students at a party broken up by local police are identified and charged with code of conduct violations by their university.
  • Celebrations after a major football victory get out of hand: the windows of downtown businesses are smashed, a car is turned over. Students in the crowd are identified and charged with violating the school's code of conduct.
  • Location-tracking information shows which students are attending class and which are not. Students with off-campus jobs or other obligations face penalties triggered by university or course attendance policies.

Many schools already track students' locations. The key card you use to enter your dorm or the lab? Those cameras on all the buildings on campus? The school knows where you are and when. Increasingly, schools can track some of your activities online as well. If you've taken an exam online recently, for example, an AI program may have used motion tracking to curtail cheating.

If you're facing misconduct allegations based on evidence from tracking data, you need attorney Joseph D. Lento to protect your rights.

Protect Your Privacy Against Tracking Data

Monitoring software and tracking data are leading to more debates over privacy concerns at colleges and universities across the U.S., leaving students concerned about how much their school knows about them. If you're a student worried about the implication of tracking data and how it may jeopardize your future, connect with an expert student defense advisor to be your advocate and ally by calling attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in New Jersey as well as Pennsylvania and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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