Everyone's An Agent: UK Company Provides Spy Software To Teachers To Weed Out Child Terrorists

from the no-no-no dept

Never content to simply let America take a bad idea and run with it alone, these past few years have seen our friends in the UK slowly start to lose their collective minds concerning terrorism and radical Islam. It's hard to be too terribly snarky about it, considering here in America we've done our best to perfect overreacting to terrorism, but when the UK decided to institute something like Orwellian "thought crime," it was still worth noting how dumb of an idea it was. But our British friends weren't done. Now, schools throughout the country are being offered some very special software that will allow teachers to spy on student activities to try to weed out the eventually-maybe-might-be-radicalized.

Schools are being offered new software that helps teachers spy on pupils' potentially extremist online activity. It alerts teachers if pupils use specific terrorism-related terms or phrases or visit extremist websites on school computers, laptops or tablets. Teachers are encouraged to look for a pattern of behaviour rather than raise the alarm after a single warning.
This software is being offered in an effort to help schools comply with the Counter Terrorism and Security Act, which puts the onus on schools to prevent children from becoming terrorists, because apparently everyone is in the business of counter-terrorism these days. It must be quite nice to be in the national security business in the UK, given how the government has managed to simply foist their responsibilities upon public citizens with nothing better to do than teach the stewards of the nation's future.

And that last line in the quote, the one about how teachers are encouraged to look for ongoing patterns rather than flying off the handle if a student happens to look up "jihad" on Google? Yeah, because teachers are clearly the best able and most trained when it comes to making those kinds of judgements. They're not. You know who is? The god damned people in the counter-terrorism business. Maybe stop shirking your responsibility and do the damned job.

Those producing this software are just full of the old "the internet is just the worst" tropes, too.
Sally-Ann Griffiths, of Impero Software, which designed the program, said: "With a widely reported increase in the number of children being radicalised, it's vital that schools put measures in place to prevent pupils coming to harm online. 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."
Heh, yodo, that's actually pretty good. Less good is someone pimping this privacy-invading, research-chilling, conversation-stopping spyware retreating to the argument-safe-house position of relying on "widely reported" non-statistics and appeals to protecting the children. On the other hand, I suppose it's quite a nice lesson for these children to find out what life will be like as an adult. Thanks to the NSA and its international counterparts, they can expect to be surveilled in much the same way when they're all growed up.

Filed Under: children, extremists, schools, spy softare, teachers, terrorists, uk


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 8:33am

    Increase in Radicalized Children?

    Did I miss something or is this just bs?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 8:35am

      Re: Increase in Radicalized Children?

      Well its the UK, so Radicalized can also mean that they may oppose mass surveilance or just simply not love The Queen enough.
      Or they radically pirate music, who knows...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Call me Al, 16 Jun 2015 @ 9:17am

        Re: Re: Increase in Radicalized Children?

        Well we've had some young teenagers head over to Syria recently, much to their parent's apparent shock and horror. So this is a concern for us in general.

        Though as usual we've gone completely overboard about it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 3:01pm

          Re: Re: Re: Increase in Radicalized Children?

          Assuming those instances are even real - I would suggest that they are only of "general concern" to you because "your" particularly rancid oligarch/state controlled media have made them so. How many traffic deaths this year? How many domestic violence deaths? Are these things of general concern too?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 10:50am

      Re: Increase in Radicalized Children?

      It sounds like little more than the UK version of the overreaction to online bullying in the US. In other words, it's bullshit. Not just bullshit, but bullshit that will harm the kids.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 12:58pm

      Re: Increase in Radicalized Children?

      dissent is terrorism apparently to those in charge that fear the public will bring them to task over their crimes

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 8:33am

    YODO
    Sorry but i cant stop laughing. I think they dont realize that most of these people are just making fun of those crazies. Will they start putting people in camps for watching surprise jihad parody videos?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 8:53am

      Re:

      Well, for some time I've been using "YODO" as a response to people who remark "YOLO".

      I guess that makes me a terrorist according to law. Bye guys, I'll see you in the headlines six months later!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 8:38am

    Priorities

    >an effort to help schools comply with the Counter Terrorism and Security Act

    This is insane. How about spending that money to increase the quality of education? Who makes these cost/benefit decisions?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 9:40am

      Re: Priorities

      Like most expenditures made by the government, the cost/benefit is done by gut feeling.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 12:31pm

        Re: Re: Priorities

        Wrong, the decision is based on the serfs...I mean citizens bearing the costs and the benefits accruing to those in power and their cronies.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 7:28am

        Re: Re: Priorities

        the cost/benefit is done by gut feeling.By observation, it's done by hand-waving, random "moral" panic and at best cronyism, rather than anything more based in reality like "gut feeling"... or Ouija boards.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 3:03pm

      Re: Priorities

      "Who makes these cost/benefit decisions?"

      It was outsourced to BAE Systems a few years ago.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Thrudd, 16 Jun 2015 @ 8:43am

    Cost is to the taxpayers and the benefits are to themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 8:45am

    to try to weed out the eventually-maybe-might-be-radicalized

    First thing to be noted here is that the West itself has turned into radicalization against anything that doesn't conform to the 'standard'. This is just one of the many examples out there.

    In the name of the ever sanctified 'perfect security' we are waging a 'jihad' against anything and everything we fear (I know the term doesn't mean what it's used for). Unfortunately the rope snaps to the weakest end and our kids can't do a thing to defend themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 8:51am

    Nice work on the correct use of the word 'agent' in the title - as people who work in an intelligence agency are officers and the people the recruit are agents. More than I can say about the Sunday Times...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 8:57am

    Time for a little NSA Haiku

    If everyone just started including an NSA Haiku from the good people at NSA Haiku Generator in every online communication, then online surveillance would be so overwhelmed as to become useless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DSchneider (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 9:55am

      Re: Time for a little NSA Haiku

      Your statement implies that surveillance is currently useful, when pretty much all evidence currently shows that its already pretty useless.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        sigalrm (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 4:05pm

        Re: Re: Time for a little NSA Haiku

        "Your statement implies that surveillance is currently useful, when pretty much all evidence currently shows that its already pretty useless."

        words like "useless" and "failed" are entirely dependent on a projects success criteria. And a project can have multiple success criteria.

        Granted, the "obvious" success criteria is "find terrorists". But there are other, not quite so obvious potential success criteria here. Examples include, but aren't limited to:

      • distraction ("hey everyone, look over here at this useless program")
      • indoctrination - "in 5 years, people will be used to X, then we can implement Y"
      • funding support - "X isn't useful today, but will be given another $Y"
      • misdirection - "we've told the terrorists we found the location to their secret base via correlation of landmarks with satellite footage. Lets hope they don't figure out to turn off the location function on their smartphone camera and/or figure out how to strip exif data out of images."

reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 9:09am

    Sally-Ann Griffiths and Impero Software should be boycotted It's a US company , I wonder if they have any ties to the intelligence community.
    Impero Inc
    838 SW 1st Ave #530
    Portland, OR 97204

    US 1-877-883-4370

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 9:19am

    Ahahahaha!

    Radical.

    Does the new definition include the phrase "two way street"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 9:25am

    I have always wondered if the very thing they are trying to prevent is actually causing the problem in the first place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 9:29am

    didn't we spend 45 years not fighting a cold war against this sort of thing

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 9:29am

    Thanks to the NSA and its international counterparts, they can expect to be surveilled in much the same way when they're all growed up.

    Why do you think the courts have been so willing to let things be done to kids which would be oppressive and unconstitutional if applied to adults? Get them used to it at a young age, and when they grow up they'll be fine with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Edward Teach, 16 Jun 2015 @ 9:41am

    Isn't this dumber than it first looks?

    pupils use specific terrorism-related terms or phrases or visit extremist websites on school computers, laptops or tablets.

    Doesn't that seem to mean they're just using keyword matching and blacklists to detect "radicalization" (whatever that is, other than "Very Bad Indeed")?

    Do the purveyors of this... software honestly believe that someone gets "radicalized" via certain keywords? I would have thought that "radicalization" would be a far more subtle process than that.

    On the flip side, do the purveyors of this... software honestly believe that reading or viewing particular keywords will de-radicalize someone? I guess this would explain the insanity of reciting the "Pledge of Allegiance" in a religious manner every day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 10:09am

    Blackhole

    It sure seems as if the real message is 'if you can't see it, it doesn't exist'. When people are in their formative years (kids) their curiosity naturally leads to things they hear about, but don't know about. Take the word jihad for example. Why 'wouldn't' a kid upon hearing that word for the first time NOT go and see what it means, even from a variety of sources? This would then get them tagged for the multiple uses of the word jihad, and assumed to be radicalized. The government appears to wish any mention of 'bad' things to just go away so that people don't learn about them.

    I would think a much better way of reducing 'radicalization' would be to proactively discuss, at increasingly complex levels as the student grow older, the concepts that cause people to be intolerant of others, rather than expressing intolerance in the most arbitrary way possible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Claire Rand, 16 Jun 2015 @ 10:37am

    Follow the money

    Someone has seen a wonderful chance to make some squids here, have a half hearted program that kids will be able to evade, similar to pretty much any web censorship software thats current used...

    Slap "TERRORISTS!!!!" on it and then flog it to education authorities..

    Someone is being silly here, but its not the ones flogging the dead horse but perhaps the ones who are convinced that if they flog enough dead horses they will teach one to sing.

    or something.


    Would expect half the terms or conditions such stuff looks for to have more to do with protests than terrorists, UK, thoughtcrime is alve and well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 11:25am

    Children can be terrorists?

    I thought children could be utilized by terrorists (which is regarded as abuse, when it comes from guardians who involve children in criminal activity). But I'd think they're too young and their characters undeveloped to take responsibility for their own radicalization.

    Then again, here in the US, when a child engages in unwanted violence (e.g. pretending a banana or a poptart is a firearm) they get suspended rather than a teacher saying "Stop it! That kind of play distresses me." (Which gets pretty good results.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 11:41am

    There are many kinds of evil.

    One of the worst kinds are those who would destroy a good society by breeding fear into every aspect of our lives in order to promote themselves and their agenda.
    For me this describes our current situation in many so called enlightened and free countries.
    Some people thrive on fear and intolerance and they gleefully spread it, rubbing their hands because they gain while the rest loose.
    It is slow going, but with enough patience and persistence they will push for more and more securities in order to fight the new "scary" thing. The problem is that what is acceptable today might be scary tomorrow and as we get more and more safe, escalation is all but impossible to avoid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 12:04pm

    What about the teachers?

    It seems to me that a "radicalized" teacher is a much, much bigger threat than a child. So, if there is nothing wrong with monitoring people's online activity for "potentially extremist activity" patterns, then they should start with the teachers and administrators first. Therefore, teachers and administrators should have all of online activities monitored at all times. And because more eyes are better at spotting subtle patterns, the logs should all be publicly posted where concerned parents and members of the public can monitor and review them.

    How does that sound?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 12:50pm

    sounds like the UK government just needs Common Core to seal the deal with brainwashing their young minds

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DigDug, 16 Jun 2015 @ 12:54pm

    Sigh...

    If it weren't for all of the supposedly "Free World" Governments turning into terrorist organizations, there wouldn't be any "student radicalization".

    9/11 and other radical terrorist attacks gave the governments of the free world countries the opening they've been salivating over for decades. So of course they took it for an opening and have been terrorizing their citizens and destroying the fundamental human rights ever since.

    Pissed off adults talking about the inhumane and illegal antics of their governments are overheard by their children, and *gasp* they talk about it at school.

    The solution isn't more illegal monitoring and witch-hunt reporting.

    The solution is to put the genie back in the bottle or destroy the genie and start over.

    The formerly free world countries are cruising for a bruising. At some point, they will take that one step too far and that will be it. The people will take Thomas Jefferson's advice and it will be game over for the current political structures in these nations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Andy B., 16 Jun 2015 @ 1:36pm

    The solution is out there:

    Operation "Everyone talk like a terrorist all the time"
    http://reason.com/blog/2013/06/12/nsa-anti-surveillance-suggestion-operati

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dr evil, 16 Jun 2015 @ 8:44pm

    Defeat it

    I have a fairly simple solution (albiet not my idea) I use the terrorist keywords (always in a white font) in every(!) Email and social media posting. If flagged for inspection, the powers that be must echeck every single entry manually.. not done here, too hard w my tablet

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2015 @ 4:24am

    I knew my child was a terrorist when I caught him researching Guy Fawkes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2015 @ 5:14am

    Such a radical idea that little Timmy can get a surprise visit by the man in paramilitary uniforms and a bag over his head enroute to a interrogation for searching how a genderswapped Yoda would be named.
    Thats great fun for everyone.

    Who would think of sending "radical" words over a messenger across school to get some attention for everyone.

    And i guess it will soon adapt to the common suspiciousness ruling, if you type yoda you are suspicious and if you refrain from writing it you are suspicious too.

    Radicalizing/idiolizing kids at school? First thing on my mind is the american daily pledge of allegiance (minus the salute since the 50s).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 17 Jun 2015 @ 5:51am

    Are you sitting comfortably, children? Then we'll begin.

    Once upon a time, there was a security company called "Impero" which had friends in the government of a country called Great Britain. Now the British were very frightened of people called "Terrorists," some of whom were very naughty and did awful things like blowing things up and chopping people's heads off.

    While the possibility of having such a thing happen to ordinary British people was very small, many newspapers and and companies in the security and defence industries were making a great deal of money by frightening people, then promising to provide the means to protect them. Even the politicians got in on the act, each one falling over themselves to promise security and freedom if the British people would only accept being watched from CCTV cameras when they went outside, or being watched on their computers and mobile phones if they went online or made a call.

    One day, Impero Software's CEO had a great idea. "The British people are frightened of their neighbours but there's one group of people they're not scared of at all," he told the board of directors. "School children."

    The thump of jaws dropping rang around the room. Each of the directors looked at each other, then back at their CEO.

    "Do you know they can be radicalised while browsing the internet?" he continued. "Luckily, we have just the product to solve the problem. We'll be selling it to all the schools in the land and ask the teachers to use it to spot terrorist children."

    One by one the board of directors stood up to clap and cheer for their clever CEO.

    "What a clever man you are!" they said. "We'll never have to worry about going to food banks like the other British people ask long as we make sure that they always have something to be frightened of."

    The CEO laughed and waited for them to sit back down so they could brainstorm on what else they could persuade the British people to be frightened of.

    The End.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GEMont, 17 Jun 2015 @ 4:30pm

    Leaders In Their Field

    "Never content to simply let America take a bad idea and run with it alone, these past few years have seen our friends in the UK slowly start to lose their collective minds concerning terrorism and radical Islam."

    And why would they not??

    After all, Terrorism has tripled/quadrupled the amount of tax payer money that politicians can throw into that hole in the ocean - read: bounce back into their own pockets.

    Next to the War on Drugs, the War on Terror has proven to every corrupt politician on earth that a phony War-On-Something can make you rich nearly overnight.

    And because muslims wear easily-identifiable costumes, they make the perfect "bad-guys" for Authority worshiping TV-trained US citizens to recognize right away as the Official Evil Agents of Satan, and very effectively replace the now defunct Murderous Russian Boogeymen and the test-run Mexican Drug-Lord Desperados.

    Once again, America leads the way in the world of innovative mass exploitation and social engineering, and the rest of the world's crooks simply follow the money trail.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonymousUser, 9 Jul 2015 @ 9:02am

    Sigh

    Do you know what Impero is? Clearly you don't. It's not new, nor is it designed to help people prevent children turning into terrorists. I'm not going to bother spending more time on this when idiots like you should probably go and actually research something before writing such a shite article.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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