Microsoft is doing its part to bring mass surveillance to children everywhere, Now children will have not only their locations tracked via smartphone but also will track the apps they use and the amount of time they spend using them. Sound terrible? Well, it’s not the NSA they’re doing it for this time, (as far as we know) it’s parents who they are giving control over this sort of surveillance to. They have developed an app called “Microsoft Launcher” that will allow parents to track their children’s every move via their smartphone. The app is currently in preview, It requires a parent to create a “family group” where all the families devices can be tracked. and on the child side will come with a kid-friendly portal to MSN-Kids, a new Microsoft owned and child sterilized news feed. And also will work in tandem with Microsoft Edge, allowing for parental control over their children’s browsing. Yes, that’s right, They are still doing everything they can think of to force people into using their crappy web browser.
I’m against this. But first I have a lot of questions about how exactly this operates which so far have gone unanswered. Just how much control over the Android operating system are you giving this app? This is just a third party app obviously, and I believe it would take a kernel rewrite to allow Microsoft the kind of controls over the phone’s operating system to allow this system to work in the intended way. If the child cannot access the data he wants in Edge, won’t he do the same thing the rest of us do and simply use Firefox or Chrome? I just can’t see a lot of scenarios where this ‘protection’ can be defeated by a kid with even a basic understanding of computer science.
But beyond that, I can also see a big issue with how much data you are handing over about your family, to Microsoft, and for free. I understand that they super double pinky swore that they wouldn’t abuse our data this time, but come on. How does that saying go? Fool me once, shame on you, fool me consistently since Windows 3.1… How many hacked data dumps and revelations about data abuse do we need to see before we demand some sort of GDPR regulation in America?
And beyond data protection and the actual viability of the idea. Let’s talk for a moment about child psychology. I’m pretty obviously not a child psychologist, but that being said I’m continually surprised by moments where I can tell how to handle situations where a child just wants attention or needs recognition, or similar when the other supposed adults around me are clueless. So I’d like all of you to do that oh so hard thing in an adults life and try to remember what it was like being 6, or 8, or 12. When you barely have any control over your own life to begin with. When you just wish so badly you could talk to an adult without them seeing you as being a little child. Imagine the kind of impact on a young mind when you realize you are being watched electronically everywhere you go. Not only that but it is not being done by the NSA (again not that we know) who are usually happy to sit back and collect data unseen, this is being done by a parental figure who regularly acts on that information. How would that revelation effect you into your later life? Would it become normal eventually? Would you accept surveillance in all aspects of your life? Is that the whole point of this in the first place? and that is the best case scenario here. You are introducing something potentially traumatic to a child at an age where it could easily become part of their personality. A brick in the foundation of their lives.
Parents are far from perfect. So handing them what to a small child must seem like omnipotent power, is asking for it to be abused. Sometimes very outwardly, those people will eventually go up against child protective services. But also sometimes very subtly, those unfortunate children grow up to be the rest of us. Just traumatized enough to be a self conscious-mess but sane enough to live the life of your average, non-questioning drone in the USA workforce. Again maybe that is the whole point.
In short, I think this is a terrible application of technology. And I’m usually the person who defends children against people who complain about the quantity of screen time they get on tablets and game consoles. A violent video game will never do the kind of damage that a legitimate reason to be paranoid can do to a child.