Seriously? Google wants to teach our kids about internet privacy and safety?
Google has developed a new education program that aims to help five million schoolchildren become better all-around “digital citizens.” It’s called “Be Internet Awesome,” and according to Google it’s designed to teach school kids from grades three to six how to protect themselves from spammers, scammers, password hackers, and other bad actors online.
In Google’s words, it’s about teaching kids “the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence.”
But while all of this seems “awesome” to Google and their many partners (including the national PTA), a ton of privacy experts and child advocates see it as little more than a massive corporate promotion that conceals Google’s own well-documented history of invading our privacy, mining our personal data, and indiscriminately surveilling our online habits behind our backs.
“There is an increasing awareness of the fact that all these supposedly free platforms are not free and that all of us are being tracked and our information is really the commodity we’re paying,” said David Monahan, the campaign manager at the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “This seems like the wrong time to be pushing resources that tell kids to be brave and fearless on the internet without telling them to be cautious and without giving them the information they really need.”
If you’re looking to help your students dig deeper into how Google’s actual business practices stack up against their “Be Internet Awesome” program, be sure to check out Ben Lewis’s terrific film Google and the World Brain, which offers crucial insights into debates surrounding data-mining and privacy, downloading and copyright, fair use, freedom, and surveillance. Check out the trailer below.
If you’re looking for other resources to help your students make sense of either the privacy-busting practices of Internet monopolies or the creeping presence of private corporations in the public school classroom, we also highly recommend our films Digital Disconnect, Consuming Kids, and Captive Audience.
Digital Disconnect explores how internet giants like Google and Facebook have amassed huge profits by surreptitiously collecting personal data and selling it to advertisers while also routinely colluding with the national security state to advance covert mass surveillance programs. Consuming Kids takes an eye-opening look at the stealth tactics of the multibillion-dollar youth marketing industry and the ethics of marketing to children. And Captive Audience examines the troubling rise of corporate-sponsored curricula and commercial advertising in our financially strapped public schools.
Click below for more information on these films.