When students log on to their school-issued devices and programs, the veil of surveillance murmurs softly, monitoring, flagging, and tracking students’ every document, email, and stray social media notification that passes through the network. To students, the monitoring system exists as a nameless idea, supported only by warnings to avoid connecting personal devices to Chromebooks, until one day, it makes itself tangible as a visit to counseling. Even then, students are left wondering about what triggered the elusive system, the system’s identity, and if they should alter their technology usage to avoid a repeat incident.
Senior Nordina Taman had always taken steps to avoid signaling the surveillance system: never plugging her phone into her Chromebook and avoiding potentially problematic internet searches. That’s why she couldn’t have anticipated a flag on her college essay on her reality of “coming out of the worst of my severe depression.” Taman said that her counselor sat down with her and went through the essay with her without any other problems since she had discussed how she had overcome her depression, dispelling any threats. Through it all, Taman’s parents were never involved.
As the dust began to settle, Taman felt left in the dark, unaware of what in particular triggered the system, and was still left clueless about the extent of surveillance she was being subjected to daily, or what it was even called. “I didn’t even know it was called Gaggle,” Taman said, learning of its name during an interview for this story, “I just knew they had a ‘something’.”