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Schools Buying FBI Grade Equipment

If you were worried about sending your kids back to school after the pandemic ends (or if you are a kid worrying about going back to school), I’m afraid this is not going to help. Some U.S. school districts are buying tools designed to break into phones to download texts and photos, even ones that have been deleted. While companies like Cellebrite have partnered with federal and local police for years, the controversial equipment is also available for school district employees to search students’ personal devices has gone relatively unnoticed and serves as a frightening reminder of how technology originally developed for use by the military or intelligence services, ranging from blast-armored trucks designed for use in war zones to invasive surveillance tools, keeps trickling down to domestic police and even the institutions where kids go to learn. Some school districts have spent up to $12,000 on the tech, which was designed for use in war zones and police investigations. Commenting on the devices, Cooper Quintin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation says that they “started out in the provenance of the U.S. military or federal law enforcement, and then made their way into state and local law enforcement, and eventually made their way into the hands of criminals or petty tyrants like school administrators.” Unlike in law enforcement, school districts don’t have to get a warrant to use the devices on students’ phones. The Supreme Court ruled that school officials only need to reasonably believe that a student is guilty of something and that searching the phone will probably obtain evidence of it.

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