Schools are a choice target for hackers and public policy isn’t helping

Photo by stem.T4L on Unsplash

(Originally published in The Hill, co-authored with Williamson M. Evers)

The University of California (UC) system announced last month that it had been hit with a massive data breach. The locale was a third-party file-transfer application called Accellion. UC was just one of the victims of the international cyberattack, which may have afflicted roughly 100 institutions, also including Stanford Medical School, the Universities of Maryland, Colorado and Miami and Yeshiva University in New York.

How much data was stolen remains unknown. The University of California wrote in a…


Powered by a 1998 law, bots threaten the public’s right to know

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(Originally published under a different title in The Hill, 03/30/21)

A clever Beverly Hills police officer allegedly tried to thwart a police-reform activist’s attempt to post an unflattering video of the officer’s conduct by blasting Sublime’s song “Santeria” from his phone. Why would he do that? The officer apparently realized that since “Santeria” is copyrighted, Instagram’s automatic content filter would take down the video.

If true, this is troubling. Cases like this show that copyright systems in the digital age pose a unique challenge to civil liberties and the public’s right to know what their government is up to. This…


Retratado: Aaron Harvey (Sandy Huffaker/Reveal)

En 2014, Aaron Harvey, un joven de 26 años que estudiaba para obtener su licencia inmobiliaria, fue recibido por los alguaciles de los Estados Unidos en la puerta de su residencia en Las Vegas, Nevada. Recién a las tres semanas después de su detención, Harvey supo que iba a ser acusado de delitos relacionados con nueve asesinatos en San Diego (California), y que, de resultar condenado, podría enfrentarse a hasta 56 años en una prisión estatal.

Pero los fiscales ya sabían lo que Harvey le había estado insistiendo a la policía: que no estaba involucrado en ningún asesinato.

En lugar…


Originally published in RealClearEducation December 23, 2020. Coauthored by Dr. Williamson M. Evers.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Colleges and universities nationwide are failing to safeguard the digital safety and privacy of their students. At the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, schools faced new challenges when they were thrown into remote learning because of shelter-in-place orders. Now, running predominantly online classes, schools are relying on remote computer access and similar applications to proctor exams online. These arrangements constitute both an invasion of privacy and a possible cybersecurity risk; the schools are overlooking better alternatives.

A wide variety of online proctoring methods is available. Common options…


In his work Life of Lycurgus, the 1st Century essayist and philosopher Plutarch gave a description of a iron based money in use by the ancient Spartans. The given account is that, after seeing the supposed evils prevailed by commerce, the “legendary lawmaker” Lycurgus ordered that all money be iron and be prohibitively heavy in order to make transactions impractical. This account has been frequently been taken at face value, even being included in World History and Geography: Ancient Civilizations by Jackson J. Spielvogel, published by McGraw-Hill in 2019 — currently used in many six grade classes in California. …


Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash

Proposition 24, Digital privacy is once again in the crosshairs of the unholy alliance between big data and government. The Personal Information Law and Agency Initiative of 2020, is on the November ballot. Alastair Mactaggart, the San Francisco real estate developer who filed the initiative, argues that Prop 24 would advance privacy rights. Other proponents concede that it is not ideal, but say the initiative would improve online privacy. Despite their optimistic views, the massive 52-page ballot measure would not improve digital privacy and instead it would create huge exemptions and a new state bureaucracy.

Few states protect individual privacy…


Photo by Roman Koester on Unsplash

A finales del año calendario 2019, Jeff Pastor, concejal de la Ciudad de Cincinnati, Ohio, pidió una revisión exhaustiva de las disparidades raciales en la vigilancia policial de la ciudad. Pastor pidió a la ciudad una evaluación ante los resultados de un informe ampliamente divulgado realizado por The Stanford Open Policing Project (El Proyecto de Policía Abierta de Stanford). …


[ This post is co-authored by Dominick Van Cleve.]

In 2014, Aaron Harvey, a 26-year-old studying for his real estate license, was met by U.S. Marshals outside his Las Vegas, Nevada, residence. Not until three weeks after his arrest did Harvey learn he would be charged with crimes in connection with nine murders in San Diego, California, and if convicted could face up to 56 years in state prison.

But prosecutors already knew what Harvey had been insisting to the police-that he wasn’t involved in any killings.

Instead of participating in the homicides, Harvey’s only “connection” to the crimes was…


“EdTech” is both porous and likely to violate students’ rights and privacy

[This article is co-authored by Williamson M. Evers, Ph.D.]

In April, Berkeley High School students were shocked when in the middle of their video conference, a man joined the meeting, exposing himself and shouting obscenities. The infiltration was just one of the numerous examples of so-called “Zoom bombing”, which occurs when an unwanted or uninvited guest causes a disruption. However, unlike other high profile instances of Zoom bombing, Berkeley High School’s example stands out as the organizers of the video conference followed best practices aimed at preventing such an invasion.

The response was an immediate suspension of video conferencing services…


Governor Jay Inslee signs off on controversial surveillance tool

Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

The state of Washington was the first in the nation to pass a bill that encompassed government use of facial recognition technology. In March, State Governor Inslee signed SB 6280 into law with an effective date of July 1, 2021.

While the bill has been celebrated as a guiding template for other states, the bill misses the mark in safeguarding civil liberties.

One of the most visible proponents of the bill, President of Microsoft Brad Smith applauded the passage, saying, “Washington state’s new law breaks through what, at times, has been a polarizing debate. When the new law comes into…

Jonathan Hofer

Public Policy Research Associate| Ad hoc consultant| Former Comparative Political Economy Researcher| Oakland, CA. B.A Political Science, UC Berkeley

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