Tag Archives: Forum

Privacy disappears in the virtual age

Art by Sam Haney

Story by Audrey Boyd

With the rapid growth of eLearning and the continual demands to self-isolate, the use of technology to work from home and communicate with loved ones has seen a major spike within the last few months. On April 9, Android Central reported that Google Classroom users have doubled, reaching 100 million as more schools across the globe close for the remaining year.

FC students and staff have had first-hand experience with this situation since April 2, when Governor Eric Holcomb announced that all Indiana schools will be closed for the rest of the school year. The revelation came merely one day after the first day of FC’s online learning.

Coincidentally, the news broke that Google was being sued for allegedly collecting student biometric data on April 6, only days later.

The lawsuit, filed by two anonymous Illinois students through their father, Clinton Farwell, states, “Google has complete control over the data collection, use, and retention practices of the ‘G Suite for Education’ service, including the biometric data and other personally identifying information collected through the use of the service…” These services include Gmail, Google Classroom, Google Docs, Chromebooks, and many more.

The lawsuit argues that Google uses this control “…not only to secretly and unlawfully monitor and profile children, but to do so without the knowledge or consent of those children’s parents.”

“The data collection would likely violate Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act, or BIPA, which regulates facial recognition, fingerprinting and other biometric technologies in the state,” news website CNET states in an article titled “Two children sue Google for allegedly collecting students’ biometric data.” It continues to say, “The practice would also likely run afoul of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, a federal law that requires sites to get parental consent when collecting personal information from users who are under 13 years old.”

Google has faced legal trouble for similar breaches of privacy in the past. A lawsuit filed on February 20 by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas focused on the alleged collection of students’ contacts, voice recordings, search history, location, and passwords. These accusations extend to YouTube as well, another company owned by Google.

It is not uncommon for major companies to take advantage of their consumers. Many advertisers track a user’s activity online to manipulate them into buying their products through targeted advertising. Google’s incognito mode can still keep records of your browsing history and link them to your identity. Facebook has been fined for misuse of facial recognition and selling private user data to outside companies. Amazon admitted to using the Amazon Alexa to record conversations and keep them forever, unless the user manually deletes them– however, even if the audio copy is removed, Amazon says they may still keep a record of Alexa’s response.

In this digital age, the privacy of the public has become virtually nonexistent. We no longer have the right to travel without being tracked, to research without being recorded, to buy without being sold, or to learn without being scanned. Our lives are a never ending film in a world of technology.

There are some options to protect your information. One example is installing a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, which will hide your location by redirecting internet traffic and can encrypt your information from possible interceptors.

However, this means that the VPN now has your information, and it cannot be guaranteed that they will not use it for the same purposes as the others. In 2015, CNET reported, “A group of coders and security researchers has claimed that one of the world’s most popular free VPN services [Hola] is an insecure network that has been on-selling users’ bandwidth and opening up their devices, giving “anybody” easy access,” in an article titled “Adios, Hola: Researchers say it’s time to nix the ‘poorly concealed’ service.” 

The lawsuit claims that Hola is vulnerable enough to still allow third parties to “take over your entire computer, without you even knowing.”

“Furthermore,” says CNET, “[the group] alleges that Hola runs a secondary business, known as Luminati, which on-sells Hola users’ bandwidth for up to $20 per GB.”

Even the most basic means of protection cannot guarantee our safety. 

And, despite this awareness, we still continue to browse. We have accepted these conditions, knowing that we are being violated, but our habits never change. How can they? As first-world nations become entirely consumed by technology, it leaves us with little other choice.

We have a right to our privacy, and the denial of such is unethical. We should not have to fear that their private conversations are being recorded and stored away. We should not have to fear being tracked, scanned, or monitored at any given time.

Laws to protect these rights can be violated. We are no longer in control of ourselves, and we have no power to change it.

Proposed Kentucky bills threaten livelihoods of transgender youth

Story by Christy Avery

Art by Scarlett Hatton

 “Live and let live.”

A hackneyed phrase, maybe. Meaningful all the same.

Upon hearing it, most people would give a nod in agreement, acknowledging the age-old practice of “minding your business.” Most people do it: most people do not care what another has for dinner, or if their favorite color is red instead of blue, or what kind of toilet paper someone else may be desperately stocking up on during the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. Most people generally do not care what someone else’s life looks like. 

Until it comes down to which bathroom someone gets to use, or what sports team they can play on, or whether or not they have the right to receive medical care. 

Then, “let live” takes on a different meaning. 

You can probably tell which direction this is going in by that last paragraph, which is all the more telling that the debate over transgender rights has dragged on for far too long. I will not give a history lesson, because it probably is not needed; year after year, the same arguments over pronouns, biology, and sex versus gender keep people on each side of the issue at each other’s throats — and in doing so, keep the world from solidifying a new outlook. Or at least, letting it go. 

Which is why I was both exasperated but not surprised to recently learn that, in the midst of a global pandemic and the rest of the world’s chaos, mind you, that Kentucky lawmakers proposed a series of bills late last year that if passed by the end of the legislative season, April 15, would limit essential rights of transgender youth in Kentucky schools. 

One of the bills, known as the Kentucky Student Privacy Act, would require students to use only the facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms that corresponded with their biological sex, as “allowing students to use restrooms, locker rooms, or showers that are reserved for students of a different biological sex: a). will create a significant potential for disruption of school activities and unsafe conditions, and b). will create potential embarrassment, shame, and psychological injury to students.” 

The concern makes sense. Nobody wants to be seen in a state of undress. But its relevance here is questionable. The concern of decency, especially in a school setting, is why there are not cameras in facilities, and why there are separate bathroom and shower stalls. Which brings us to another logical point: a person’s genitalia, whether or not it “matches” with their chosen gender, cannot be seen through a locked door. And when it comes to locker rooms, cisgender people do not always want to undress out in the open, either; I never felt comfortable doing so until my senior year. That, however, does not rid me of the fact that I, like many others, am lucky: the way I feel about my gender matches my body, and therefore I am welcomed in the appropriate spaces. I can walk into the girls’ restroom or locker room and go about my business unquestioned.

Although many seem to believe otherwise, transgender people just want to do the same. They use the restroom and shower just like everyone else. What is underneath their towel or behind the door is private, and unlikely to be seen anyway. So as understandable as it is to want privacy, it is not black-and-white; there are solutions that span beyond locking innocent people out. Schools could provide more unisex, gender-neutral bathrooms, or, if nothing else, request that a transgender student use a stall within the locker room that corresponds to their gender. And if a cisgender person feels uncomfortable at the mere presence of a transgender student? They could do what they have had the opportunity to do all along: mind their own business or find another way to do it. 

It can be that simple to not cause a riot. So one wonders where the “psychological trauma” comes in. 

 That brings us right back around to Kentucky lawmakers. House Bill 321, introduced simultaneously with the Student Privacy Act, aims to prohibit medical professionals from performing procedures or prescribing medications to transgender youth. Rep. Savannah Maddox backs the bill, writing on her Facebook page last fall that “I am a strong advocate for parents’ rights–but it is not the right of a parent to permanently alter a child’s gender or identity, even when based upon certain behaviors or the perceptions of a child’s mind which has not yet had time to fully develop.” 

There appears to be some confusion here: if it is not even the right of a parent to decide what their child gets to do, how is it the right of a lawmaker to decide? 

One could argue that Maddox is simply doing her job: trying to protect citizens. I would argue that she is protecting nobody at all, especially not with misinformation. While the process of transitioning is certainly a big one, it is not taken lightly, and the medical providers lawmakers threaten to punish with a Class D felony–which holds a sentence of up to five years–work closely with families to ensure a slow transition, one that can be adjusted if done early enough. Puberty blockers, for example, are typically used to “allow these families the opportunity to hit a pause button… until we know that it is either the right or the wrong direction for their particular child,” said Dr. Rob Garofolo in an interview to FRONTLINE

The “certain behaviors” and “perceptions” cited as reasons to block medical treatment can be explored during this time. But that’s only if the parent — and the child — is given the right to do so. It’s only after many years of a child affirming their gender socially and medically that they are able to begin the process of reassignment surgery or hormones if desired. A typical concern, as Maddox wrote, is that parents are likely to somehow push their children into further changes, or that if a minor does choose themselves, they will regret it.

But the desire to physically embody how one feels about themselves does not begin or end with a birthday, and regret is uncommon: in a 2015 study by the U.S. National Center for Transgender Equality, only 8 percent of nearly 28,000 people expressed a sense of regret after transitioning. 

The real risk is that, in ignoring the phrase “let live,” lawmakers are quite literally putting lives in danger. In grumbling about a child’s mind not yet being developed, Maddox forgets that nearly every medical source out there asserts that the brain is not fully developed until age 25. Making minors wait until they are 18 to receive hormone therapy or surgery adds years onto the mental health issues that are caused by dysphoria: in a study published by the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2014, it was found that transgender youth have a “twofold to threefold” increased risk of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. In another study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 50 percent of trans boys, 41 percent of nonbinary teens and 30 percent of trans girls had attempted suicide in their lifetime. 

Transgender healthcare can be irreversible in some aspects. But then again, are tattoos not the same? Same with piercings, in a sense? Teens choose to get those with relatively little uproar. But yet, when a child wants to confirm who they are, we fret and fuss and complicate the deliberate and often slow choices that are, frankly, none of our business at all. 

Medical providers — and parents, for that matter — should not be punished for simply doing their jobs, to help and support those in their care. Making it illegal to do so demonstrates a belief that parents and doctors are incompetent, and shows that the experiences of transgender youth apparently are not valid enough. Even if all that trans youth want is to exist safely and happily within this world, to make choices that everyone may not agree with, but that harm no one. And, most importantly, keep them existing. 

“Live and let live.” To lawmakers, it seems to be one or the other. 

I hope on April 15, they will make the right choice. 

 

Links to bills: 

https://legiscan.com/KY/bill/HB132/2020

https://legiscan.com/KY/bill/HB321/2020

 

Letter from the editor

Dear Readers,

The Bagpiper staff and myself regret to inform you that some articles in our newspaper are not entirely up-to-date at this point in time.

With the coronavirus affecting many events, some of our articles are filled with wrong information. For sports, we wrote about boys’ basketball regionals tomorrow night. This event is no longer open to the public and restricted the team and immediate family.

We also regret to inform the public that Gypsy has been canceled for its final weekend. Our 1 in 1800 video also mentioned St. Baldrick’s and its upcoming event. This event has been moved from April to May and updates are currently being made.

We apologize for the inconvenience; however, the ever-changing events surrounding the coronavirus altered events after we submitted final pages to our printer on Wednesday morning.

Thank you for your constant support,

Gracie Vanover

Editor-in-Chief