Protect Students from Corporate Data-Mining in the Classroom

Across the political spectrum, people are debating whether it’s a good idea to collect any personal data at all about students. We should at least agree that private companies must not use such data for their own profit. Last month, Senators Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) and Ed Markey (D., Mass.) took a step in this direction, reintroducing legislation that would prohibit companies from data-mining students’ personal information for marketing purposes. The increasing use of technology in the classroom has shown the ability to produce significant gains in student achievement, but the advent of high-tech classrooms and online learning has created some troubling issues for parents and students. In the 21st century, school children have to worry about large corporations stealing their personal data as much as they worry about schoolyard bullies stealing their lunch money.

In the digital age, 95 percent of school districts are sending student records to Google, Microsoft, and hundreds of other companies that manage school services. Only 7 percent of these districts sign contracts that directly prevent companies from selling students’ data. The Protecting Student Privacy Act would prohibit companies from data-mining students personal information for marketing purposes and would require stricter safeguards on student data. The reintroduction of this legislation (first introduced in 2014) comes in response to high-profile cases in which private corporations gained access to students’ data.

Read the rest on National Review here.

Libertarians, Altruism, and Peter Singer

Australian philosopher Peter Singer is often considered to be a left-wing utilitarian. But I attended one of his lectures this month at Durham University, and it made me think twice. His presentation was aimed at promoting his latest book, The Most Good You Can Do, and its central theme: effective altruism. Libertarians should be interested in effective altruism for a number of reasons.

Effective altruism (EA) focuses on rationally evaluating the effectiveness of ways we can improve the world. Once the best methods are determined, effective altruists will devote significant amounts of their time and money to these causes.

The idea has manifested in various ways: EA organisations are assessing the impact of charities that claim to alleviate human and animal suffering, as well as providing career advice for those who want to make the greatest possible difference in their working lives.

But how well does effective altruism cohere with the principles of a free society?

Read the rest on FEE’s ‘Anything Peaceful’ here.