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Innovative or Invasive? Bluetooth technology used to track students

by Samantha Minnehan

The application, SpotterEdu now allows teachers, administrators and coaches to track students’ location for attendance amongst other controversial purposes at 40 plus schools across the nation including Syracuse University and The University of Central Florida.

Last December, The Washington Post released an article about SpotterEdu, an app that is gaining popularity as a new tool to encourage better attendance at both public and private universities. The article discussed how the app uses bluetooth to track the students locations via their smartphones. In order to be marked present for class the student must be in range of the classroom or wherever the bluetooth beacon is located. This is being used to encourage students to come to class and may have negative consequences on their grades if they choose not to attend class. However, there is the option to opt out but it has to be within a certain time frame. 

There is much controversy surrounding this innovative way to take attendance. According to The Washington Post there have been cases of scholarships being revoked due to poor attendance as well as cases of students being tracked outside of the classroom. This app gives faculty the ability to see where each individual is on campus at any given time. In one case,  reported by The Washington Post it was used to track how often a student left their dorm and resulted in her being checked on to ensure her mental wellbeing. 

University of Tampa sophomore economics major, Douglas Manganelli said “I think this is an invasion of privacy, if you look at real world job situations, employers don’t track their employees, they trust them to get the work done without being monitored, so why would would start doing this to students?” 

Manganelli also said, “ When I came to college I expected to have more independence from my parents, I expected to rely on them less and the transition of them not knowing where I was wasn’t easy or immediate, but it’s necessary for everyone as adults to make that transition.” This app may be seen as controversial because it is delaying the start of their independence. 

As for The University of Tampa, according to the director of Public Information and Publications, Eric Cardenas, “UT has not considered this or any similar app, and we have not discussed any different approach to checking attendance, leaving this to be determined by individual faculty members.” 

Although UT will not be implementing any sort of similar system, nearby colleges are implementing bluetooth tracking; The University of Central Florida, has already begun using this new technology. 

When asked about this new app being used in universities, UT students held a general consensus that it was an invasion of privacy. Sophomore marketing major, Derek Bresch said  “there are other ways to take attendance, you don’t need to track where I am, to me it seems a little creepy.” 

The question that has yet to be answered in an age of constantly improving technology is, where do we draw the line between innovation and privacy? 

Samantha Minnehan can be reached at samantha.minnehan@spartans.ut.edu

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