Education International
Education International

Pearson caught spying on students

published 24 March 2015 updated 25 March 2015

The American Federation of Teachers was aghast to discover that the world’s largest edu-business has undertaken a new activity, moving from administering tests to online surveillance to monitor American students’ social media activity in search of cheaters.

Through a sub-contractor, edu-business giant Pearson is spying on students’ online messages. The news broke when a leaked email sent to a school official in New Jersey revealed that a student’s tweet hours after a test had been flagged for a so-called “Priority 1” breach. It was later discovered that the state’s education department called for the school to discipline the student.

The discovery of espionage targeted at students has many raising questions about privacy issues and the overreach of a multinational corporation.

“This isn’t the first time Pearson has been caught engaging in unscrupulous behaviour,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), in a statement. She pointed to other incidences, including where the company prevented teachers from speaking out after supervising its exams, and when it has been found taking advantage of the public school system to boost profits.

“Now we find out that the company is actually spying on students—many of whom are minors. It’s one thing to protect intellectual property, but this raises far too many questions,” said Weingarten.

According to news reports, the spying is not limited to the state of New Jersey. Other school districts across America have also hired private companies to monitor online activities on sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Vine and Instagram, among others. The actions are being defended as a way of eliminating cheating through the sharing of exam questions.

However, other U.S. states are working to eliminate the practice before it creeps into their districts by passing laws to prohibit spying.

To join the AFT in condemning Pearson’s spying tactics, click here to take action.