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Gaslighting With Gaggle: The Surveillance of Children and Families Through the School System

Gerry Bello

The current pandemic has changed the patterns of daily life for all of us. More people work from home. More students go to school from home. Romper Room of from previous generations has been replaced by romper zoom. Parents who work from home are having to deal with kids who go to school from home. It is hard on parents, it is hard on teachers, and children trapped in a house all day with excess energy get to mischief quick.

There is a mental health toll for people who are confined. This is why the U.N. considers many of the practices of the American prison system to be torture. Raising mental health concerns about families is not manufacturing a problem. Forcing feeding them surveillance for profit is not a solution.

Meet Gaggle. Gaggle is spyware for children. It is marketed to school systems and has seen an explosive growth in sales over the past two years fueled by public health funding and public health procurement rules that allow the circumvention of public feedback and normal purchasing proceedures.

Gaggle is installed by schools systems on home computers used by children and is attached to their school email address. Although it allows users to opt-out, they are also opting-out of use of a school email address and effectively dropping out of school.

Gaggle scans every email, every social media post and notification, and the contents of all G-Suite Documents and Microsoft 360 documents associated with the email address. It works outside of school hours. Thus the school is now reading children's social media, their diaries, their private thoughts just as they learn to express themselves with the written word.

Gaggle is marketed as a way to check for access to pornography and protect children from predators. It scans every image. It also is supposed to detect depression and thoughts of self-harm. It scans every word. It also checks for profanity. It flags content for use of the words “Gay” or “Lesbian” because it sees these words as pornographic descriptions not sexual identities.

Content that is flagged by the AI is then passed to a first line of moderators. These people make $10 per hour and may work no more than 38 hours per week, and thus get no health care. Flagged emails are automatically blocked without notification to the sender or recipient regardless of any action on the part of the first tier monitors. Students earn a “strike” for flagged content. Just like in the California judicial system, three strikes produces and escalation of action.

There is a second level of monitors who allegedly have some level of experience in criminology or mental health. The number of second level monitors and their exact levels of training is something the company has not disclosed to media outlets doing stories on their product. These second level monitors then interact with the school system who then takes some action at their own discretion.

While marketed as a way to prevent teen suicide, school shootings, drug abuse and sexual violence to children, the lesson being taught by this educational tool is different. That lesson to children is that their every word is being watched at all times. Gaggle accustoms children to being citizens and therefore subjects of the surveillance state.

As an adult who thinks this might be a good idea consider that this author could personally get a job at Gaggle tomorrow and be reading your child's email the next day. Further, this author could be reading their diary.

Now, slip back in time and imagine your 12 year old self. Do you want a stranger in a far away place reading your diary? When you were 14 did you write horrible angsty semi-sentences and believe it was “poetry?” Would you want a stranger to read that then or now?

How does 40 year old you feel about the idea of a government agent being able to read your diary from 28 years ago and use it to profile you? That will happen 25-30 years from now to today's children. All of these emails, homework assignments, diary entries, and bad attempts at poetry are now the business records of Gaggle.

As business records they are subject seizure and archiving for later retrieval under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The so-called logic that has lead to this is that the intelligence community needs the diaries of 12 year olds today to prevent the 9-11s of tomorrow.

We are raising a generation that will have never known privacy of their words, their thoughts, their very minds. We live in a system where lack of privacy is a condition of public education and children are judged by people who are paid the bare minimum. All the while a great big data straw slurps every recorded thought and word into storage for later use against them.