Mental Health Interventions Spur Privacy Debate Over Search Histories

GUARDIAN ANGEL AND OVERSEER: The Chromebook coordinator at Neosho School District in Missouri, told NPR that, on average, GoGuardian flags a student's search history with signs of severe mental distress once per semester. GoGuardian's original purpose was to protect students from viruses and inappropriate online material, but the technology has also served the function of alerting counselors when students search for "suicide" and clusters of terms related to self-harm. The company says it has directed counselors to disturbed students dozens of times since its inception.

Students in need finding mental health services is an unequivocal good, but what about the implications of omnipresent surveillance of and access to students' search history? "It's so intrusive," Carolyn Stone, ethics chair of the American School Counselor Association, told NPR. She and others wonder about the long-term effects of accustoming students to the fact that others always know what they're doing online.

GoGuardian said no client has ever raised privacy concerns. "Schools and parents are the primary protectors of the students, and GoGuardian provides another tool to help them in their endeavors, but does not make decisions on which types of online activity may lead to alerts to the administration for the benefit of the student," Cody Rice, the technical product manager at GoGuardian, told NPR.

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