Life360, an app that makes helicopter parents salivate and, more importantly, is the sworn enemy of teenagers everywhere. It really lets parents have it all: it gives them weekly distracted driving reports, tells them the speed you drive and, of course, constantly tracks your location.
Its motto: feel free, together. Funny.
For students forced to download the Life360 app, there is a light at the end of the tunnel: college. Most parents and students agree that college students having their mom stalk them on Life360 is unreasonable. Or is it?
Don’t worry, though, someone decided to change all that. Meet SpotterEDU, the Life360 for colleges, teachers, and administrators, embraced by a growing list of universities including Syracuse, Auburn, Central Florida, Columbia, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia Commonwealth.
First made in 2015 by Rick Carter, a former MSU basketball coach, to monitor attendance of student athletes, SpotterEDU hopes to “decrease friction between those helping students succeed,” whatever that means. It uses beacons placed in classrooms to track what time students get to class, how long they stay in class, and even if students take a short break during the class. Some systems like SpotterEDU use students’ location data to build “risk scores,” flagging students who spend a lot of time in their room and rewarding students who go to the library enough.
The excuse aforementioned helicopter parents use for Life360 is essentially the same university admin use for SpotterEDU and similar programs. If you have nothing to hide, what’s the problem with it? Professors with low class attendance can see attendance levels of 90%, colleges can boast better statistics, and can dole out scholarships to students with good data, all for the small price of the students’ basic right to privacy.
Maybe these programs will help universities and students in the short term. I’m sure the carrot on a stick method of attendance points will make more students go to class. Maybe that will actually help make them better students. But who’s graduating? They never learned the hard way why they needed to go to class. They never went to the library because they wanted to, they just went to boost their “risk score.” An entire generation of college graduates who achieved their success using a crutch that forced them into good habits.
This turns into a generation of adults who rely on similar babysitting in the real world, a generation of adults who have been watched by and controlled by this technology their entire lives. Will they have an issue with government mandated Big Brother style surveillance?
Although Big Brother might seem like a bit of a stretch, this SpotterEDU student tracking is a very creepy stride towards that future. Especially when China is currently using facial recognition and social points straight out of a Black Mirror episode, it’s time students and educators alike reject this privacy infringing stalker service. Life 360 should not actually be for life.