GoLocalProv | Brown has surveillance camera for 9 undergraduates

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Monday 05 April 2021

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A surveillance camera in Brown. Photo: GoLocalProv

Brown University has a surveillance camera for nine undergraduates, based on a doctoral student’s analysis.

According to doctoral student Jack Wrenn, Brown has 816 cameras on campus, which roughly matches the number of full-time faculty. Brown has approximately 7,160 undergraduate students.

“Since 2017, my friends and I have marked the locations of approximately 150 surveillance cameras on College Hill. Although this is only a fraction of the more than 800 cameras at Brown University, the extent of the surveillance is staggering: it is impossible to walk through (or even approach) the University. Brown without being watched, ”Wrenn wrote in the Brown Daily Herald.

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Wrenn has raised the issue of what he says is “seemingly unlimited surveillance” at the Ivy League institution – and he expressed his most recent concerns as the university came under attack. a suspected cyberattack last week.

“My impression is that students are concerned about the ubiquitous monitoring of their daily lives by the University,” Wrenn told GoLocalProv.com.

Wrenn then decided to attempt to write a technical but accessible guide on how system administrators can track people’s locations – which was covered on the front pages of Hacker News and Reddit.

“Sure, the students know there are security cameras, but do they know there are more cameras than full-time professors !? Of course not,” Wrenn said. “The students do not accept to be supervised; they don’t even know they’re being watched! How could they consent to it? “

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has expressed repeated concerns about government surveillance.

In Rhode Island, the ACLU released a report on what they called the “alarming lack of privacy” for K-12 families over school-supplied laptops and distributed during the pandemic – and what information schools might use – – or access.

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Brown’s student Jack Wrenn has raised concerns about the school’s surveillance. Photo: File

Call for awareness

“It is vital that we all grapple with the tension between the convenience of technology and privacy. It is vital that we push back against the idea that the sacrifice of privacy is the inevitable cost of progress,” said Wrenn at GoLocal. “It’s going to require a change of understanding and attitude”

“We all need to make an effort to understand how technology affects our privacy,” Wrenn said. “We must abandon the attitude that loss of privacy is inevitable; rather, we should constantly and openly weigh the benefits of technology against its costs. “

As GoLocal reported last week, Brown was the subject of an alleged cyberattack that temporarily shut down some systems.

“Because the security threat most directly affects the Microsoft Windows operating system, it is essential that we have as few Windows computers as possible running on campus in order to mitigate this problem,” wrote the chief digital officer and Brown’s CIO in a message to the Brown community last Tuesday.

“For this reason, we are asking faculty and staff who are on Brown’s physical campus or who have connected via VPN using a Windows computer to temporarily stop using these machines, in s ‘instead relying on smartphones, tablets or computers running on other systems, ”Thirsk continued.

Wrenn urged students to be aware of the role of technology on campus, not only for their professional and personal needs, but also for its impact on their privacy.

“First and foremost is to be more aware of the ability of the technology to be used to monitor. It is only with this awareness that we can give our informed consent,” Wrenn said.

“In the short term, Brown University should make it easy for students to view all the information the University stores about them, a right already guaranteed in Europe by GDPR,” Wrenn said.

“In the long term, Brown should consider whether he can reduce his supervision of students. Does Brown really need to keep track of every building I’ve entered? Have I logged into my Brown account? Do they really need more security cameras than full-time professors? ”He added.

“I suspect the answer to a lot of these questions is no. I understand how tempting it is to monitor and safeguard everything, but it is a huge expense and responsibility,” he said. “As a result of Brown’s cybersecurity breach, I wonder: What personal information did hackers get about me that Brown didn’t need to store in the first place?

Brown did not respond to a request for comment on the university’s surveillance.

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