Schools throughout the United Kingdom are being provided new surveillance software aimed at detecting “extremist” students.
The program, designed by UK-based Impero Software, assists schools in building threat profiles on individual students by utilizing real-time electronic monitoring.
Installed on school laptops and tablets, the software uses keyword search capabilities and URL monitoring to detect the use of “terrorism-related” words or phrases, allowing teachers to examine suspicious behavior patterns among students.
“Protecting young people from the dangers of radicalization requires positive online counter-extremism, and empowering teachers with technology like Impero’s keyword library is an important part of this process,” Jonathan Russell, a software developer, told the BBC.
According to Impero Software employee Sally-Ann Griffiths, the keyword library gives schools the ability to stay up-to-date with the latest jihadist terms.
“By defining terms such as ‘yodo’, a phrase used by jihadist sympathisers meaning ‘you only die once’, the glossary gives teachers, who are part of the solution to the problem, the tools they need to identify, intervene and safeguard at-risk pupils,” Griffiths said.
The software’s implementation follows the February passage of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act, a law, which among other things, tasks educators with preventing the radicalization of schoolchildren.
Teachers across the country have argued that the law places “an unlawful and unenforceable duty on educational institutions and staff,” turning teachers into spies in their own classrooms.
“The best response to acts of terror against UK civilians is to maintain and defend an open, democratic society in which discriminatory behavior of any kind is effectively challenged,” the Guardian wrote. “Draconian crackdowns on the rights of academics and students will not achieve the ends the government says it seeks.”
The law also raises questions given the ever-expanding definition of “terrorist,” which is increasingly being applied to peaceful political activists.
Similar systems are being adopted by education centers in the United States as well, with some schools even looking into “biometric classroom” programs that monitor individual eye movements, facial expressions and conversations.