Is Small Upfront Savings Worth Risking the Privacy of American Students?

Chinese technology firms are not bound to the same privacy constraints as their American counterparts. As detailed by Sixth Tone, Chinese authorities use webcams and artificial intelligence to observe students in classrooms, monitoring their facial expressions and attention patterns to identify possible distractions and behavior not conducive to learning. While efficient in its quest to better streamline student learning, is it appropriate to violate the privacy of students by monitoring their behavior via cameras and AI?

In the Western world this sort of invasion of privacy is inexcusable. Speaking on the basis of anonymity, a current student at the Niulanshan First Secondary School said he had no warning his classroom was being recorded, or that facial recognition software was monitoring the activities of himself and fellow classmates. This intrusion in becoming the norm in China, as the government continues to implement new policies infringing on the rights of citizens. From artificial intelligence to social scoring, China continues to establish its reign as the most policed nation in the world.

This instance raises concern in the United States as domestic school systems continue to purchase Chinese technology. Before purchasing Chinese equipment, education officials should ask themselves if a few dollars in the budget is worth the privacy of students, as Chinese technology companies could at any moment turn low-cost equipment into high-value intelligence gathering devices for the Chinese government.