School Does Not Allow Alternate Web Browsers on our Chromebooks

I discovered something interesting on my school computer recently. I was trying to use an alternate web browser (Startpage) on my school provided computer (which is a Chromebook), and was surprised to find that it was blocked. Even google searching Duckduckgo or any alternative to Google resulted in a blocked page before even clicking on the site. I was wondering if the school is allowed to do this, because they own the computer and are administrators on my school provided email. I also wanted to know anyone else’s thoughts on this and if they had experienced an similar situation.

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@sidnya it’s good you bring this out in the open- and I encourage you to not let this thought go.

Schools have no regulation or guidance in regards to anything other than email- and even email doesn’t hold any real regulation or protection.

Restricting browsers could be a security feature- but this restricts the type of searches one can do because different browsers behave differently.

Schools need to realize redirecting searches with data mining from the outside is harmful to education- perhaps having a professor of education design special browsers and search engines that protect privacy and also protect the free search experience is in order as well.

Technology has lots of fuel to burn through these problems- and Edtech is one of them- should be a field into itself that isn’t managed by people trying to win their Hawaiian vacation with a big salary.

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I think this whole thing is absolutely terrible!

First of all, I would be highly reticent to use a Chromebook at all. It would be my absolute last choice of PC. Haven’t researched this, but would guess that an awful amount of your data flows to Google.

Then how does this blocking work? Is this only on the school’s wifi network and/or intranet? In that case they may have it blocked at their own gateway by the admin. Which is bad, but their rationale may be that with DuckDuckGo and safe browsing off it is easy to find adult content, even when not in search of it.

If you are also blocked on your home wifi, then the blocking is on your computer. Are you the admin on your own PC, or is that also controlled by the school (or even by Google, maybe)?

Anyway, I wouldn’t do anything private and personal on that laptop. Also I expect your school is sponsored by Google and they are guzzling all of your data. So valuable to them what you are doing. How good are you, what is your interest, your intelligence, emotions, etc.

PS. I don’t know if you own a personal laptop. You could bring that and refuse to use the other one for a while, if that is possible. Say that you do it for security and privacy reasons. See how they react.


This is great @aschrijver. @patm perhaps this could be part of the education kit you are talking about creating for schools. To have a list of rights and responsibilities- and one if the rights being able to bring your own laptop to school and control content sharing etc…,


After I started understanding data mining I was very apprehensive about using chrome which is why I tried to switch browsers. I use Firefox on my home computer but I do not have a laptop that I can easily bring to school. I believe the blocking is on the computer because even when I use it at home restricted mode filters my search results and prevents me from seeing comments on Youtube and other websites. I am unfortunately not the admin on the computer. I think there is a way to bypass the admin control someone has figured out, but I do not want to risk getting in trouble with my school.

It made me very uneasy when I realized I could only use Google because that means the company is using the entire student body to mine data. It really freaked me out, especially because there is no way around it. I clear my browser history as much as I can and restrict as much ad tracking as I can. It just surprised me that no one thought about this when creating restrictions (maybe they did think about it but just did not think it was super important).

My friends think I am being a bit paranoid, and assume that me wanting to “hide” my data means I have something to hide. How should I respond to that?


@sidnya, you should be proud to be you. You have awareness of yourself and society, and that is the key to becoming a good digital citizen.

Sherry Turkle has written a wonderful book, Alone Together, in which she presents the results of hundreds of interviews, most of them with high-school and college students. I think you will find in this book that there are aware, thoughtful young people just like you, who want technology to be a tool and not a shackle.

Reading this book may also give you ways to respond to your friends. Furthermore, Sherry T. has a TED talk, for which a transcript is available. Is there a teacher at your school you could share this with? Perhaps it would lead to a great class discussion.


There is a teacher I could bring this up with (coincidentally she is the computer science teacher). Unfortunately a lot of teachers at my school rely on Google products just because they are not provided adequate resources, so they do not always see my side. But any discussion around this topic is raising awareness , is important and should be welcome, right? (-: Thank you for your book recommendations @patm!

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Yes, indeed; any discussion that creates awareness by having people reflect on their behavior is good.

Alone Together is a thick book, so I will look through it this weekend and try to find the parts that are best to read. In the meantime, watching Sherry T.'s TED talk is a good start.


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@patm That TED Talk was super cool! My dad has always encouraged me to “be bored” instead of trying to seek entertainment all the time through my devices. He always says “You can learn a lot by being bored by yourself”. That talk really supports that outlook. Thank you for spending time looking through the book.

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@sidnya I too find your awareness on these issues refreshing to hear.

I think you’ll like to hear Ashkan Soltani talk- his talk hits all these things right on the head- he’s brilliant and not afraid of the truth.


What would be very cool to do is address this issue together with the Humane Tech Community. We should give Tech Wise theme a spin, and start a campaign for this.

If you want to make a strong argument you have to be well-prepared, know exactly what you talk about. No conspiracies, but hard facts. As a first deliverable we can write one or more articles, and promote it on our blog. Get some good discussions going. Then maybe, @sidnya, you could organize a talk at school and create a kind of action team, so you do not stand alone in your plea.

So collecting facts… we can start having a look on this forum, like the data Google collects on you. There was this project for FB called Data Selfie (discontinued), that sent data about you to an emotional analysis service, and came back with a report on you. Some techies amongst our members could revive this, but then for Google.

There is the book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism which is becoming a bestseller, and on Hacker News there are many discussions where people argue that Google is actually worse in many respects than Facebook, and their slogan ‘Don’t be evil’ rings entirely hollow.

Many aware people are very frustrated that everyone - knowing about the scandals and the dangers - just keeps using the bad stuff. Targeting young people in places where they are most exposed, is a particularly nasty practice, and I expect we can really rally people here to raise their voice about it, if we just let them know what is going on, and what is at stake.

PS @sidnya, do you want to join the Awareness Program and the Campaigners team?

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I definitely want to join those teams! I was unsure of how to and a little embarrassed to ask. I have a lot of ideas in how to spread tech awareness in schools and to teenagers specifically!


You are most welcome to join @sidnya. I am excited to add you to the team. Will do it right away :smiley:

A good place to start might be pages 182 through 186. Though the section talks about Facebook a lot, I think you will be able to glean the differences in self-regard and maturity between one student, Brad, and the others.

BTW, there is also a lot about robots in the book. Turkle interviewed preschoolers and senior citizens about their interactions with the robots that were introduced into their environments as part of her research project. Interestingly, the seniors showed greater emotional attachment and the children more curiosity about the machines.

@sidnya, I should caution you that there are disturbing things in the book. I don’t know if you will get your own copy or borrow one from the library, but be careful. If you like, I can continue to suggest sections to you.

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What is your school? Public? Private? Secondary? College? There are remedies for all of these.

Its a public school.

Private schools, home schooling, addressing the school board, and becoming a member of the school board all are paths to improving that situation.

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While some of these may have better policy, I don’t see this as a real solution. They are much more expensive to join in general, and for many not able to afford this leads to privacy inequality. Private schools in a way undermine the public system in a vicious cycle, and they are commercial entities themselves. They’ll maximize profits on you, and once dominant in your region tuition may go up and up.


Its a bit late for me to switch to a private school, and unfortunetly our school board doesn’t care about our schools as much as it cares about its budget and pay raises for the superintendent. Unfortunetly that is how it is for a lot of public school districts. I think if a more formal organization lobbied against districts for privacy rights it would be more effective ( maybe something for the advocacy category).

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Private schools are in the same position- they are not necessarily educated in privacy- one of the issues with Edtech in the US in public and private alike. My child is in private this year and she telks the teacher about privacy issues- they use google classroom… they want free chrome books to keep tuition lower so the intent is benevolent. The only part that is better about private is when there is an issue parents can stand together to make a change. Unfortunately, many of the parents of these kids in Bayarea work for Facebook and google- so naturally they think everything is safe because these companies pay their mortgage. A bit incestuous, but not in a bad way.

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