When you enjoy free campus Wi-Fi, you’re almost certainly trading off your privacy. As a student, you might be inclined to think that your school has your best interest in mind with the erection of highly restrictive firewalls. But in fact, it is through these exact connections that you might be surveilled unknowingly. Here’s how it works.
What does your school track?
1. Your online activities
Regardless of the device you use, your school could have access to your browsing history when you go online through their gateways. When using campus Wi-Fi, not only can universities see your browsing history, they can even see what exactly you’ve looked at if the sites are not secured with HTTPS. Similarly, at high schools or colleges, when you use the school’s computer facilities, you might be monitored by a Classroom Management Software that logs usage and the sites you’ve visited.
If your college is also your email account host, think twice before hitting send because in King’s College London, students’ communications are closely monitored for messages that potentially hint at ‘radicalization on campus.’ While students should protest in the name of freedom of speech, they should simultaneously invest in ways to shield themselves from the unnecessary scrutiny.
2. Your geo-location
Your mobile phone is essentially your personal GPS tracker. Whenever its online on campus, your university can find out where you are from your Wi-Fi usage. In Australia, the University of Melbourne has been reported to track students’ movement around the campus through their mobile Wi-Fi connection down to the exact room.
Along this line of thinking, you could be tracked for the time you spend in and out of class or on and off campus (that is, how much you’re skipping). What if that’s correlated against your grades? While that might be an inconclusive correlation, don’t give your institution the opportunity to hold this against you. No one wants to be held under a microscope like that.
3. Your biometrics
St. Mary’s School Ascot, an all-girls boarding school in the country now uses a finger veins scanner to identify and locate girls within the campus. Early in the morning, girls line up one after another to press their fingers against the scanner before the school day begins. This is the same technology that is used hospitals and prisons where heavy surveillance is required and necessary, which is why its implementation in a school highly questionable. While it might be an inimitable and efficient way to verify identities, the extent and frequency to which personal information is collected by these biometric scanners verge on a privacy breach.
How to stop your school from tracking you
1. Invest in a trustworthy VPN and connect to a UK server to optimize speed if you’re in the country
2. Get the HTTPS Everywhere plug-in to secure all pages you browse
3. Separate your private and academic correspondences and email communications
4. Make an anti-surveillance statement against email monitoring and Wi-Fi tracking on campus
5. Read your universities privacy practices and find out how much information they are gathering from your online activities.
The new school year is starting now. You might be making big plans or enjoying your final days off, but don’t let the end of your summer holidays be the end of your freedom. It is comforting to think that you’re in safe and secure at school, but you could never be too careful with who you trust your personal information with. If you’re looking for a way to protect yourself on campus, invest in a reliable VPN like ExpressVPN. As a premium brand, it is a little pricey for students, but the good news is, ExpressVPN is now offering a limited-time discount of up to 49% off. Grab it before it’s gone!