The New York Legal News Round Up
So Close! Please Vote.

My Kid and Homeland Security?

DhssmallPut on your tin foil hats folks.  You're in for quite a ride.   

At the outset, I apologize in advance for what I expect will be a lengthy post, but it's out of necessity.   And, while it's a bit off the beaten path from my typical subject matter, it arguably falls under the civil rights issues that I occasionally blog about.

Yesterday we received a letter from my kindergartner's school advising that the school district will be participating in a "Survey of Internet and At-Risk Behaviors" in order to provide "Internet safety, information security and cyber ethics education for our students."  (Update to clarify post:  The survey would be administered at school by teachers after each teacher had received 2 hours of training.)  We were advised that we could obtain additional information regarding the survey online.  And, of course, we could opt our child out of the survey if we chose to do so.

Sounds good, right?  That's what I initially thought, but since my kid is a big fan of routine and predictability, I decided to investigate a bit more before subjecting her to the survey process which might make her uncomfortable, given her particular constitution.

So, investigate I did.  I started with the website referred to in the letter--that of the "Rochester Regional Cyber Safety & Ethics Initiative".  I learned that 20 area school districts were participating in this initiative and from the Executive Summary learned that:

The Rochester Regional Cyber Safety and Ethics Initiative (The Initiative) is a non-profit partnership between the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), more than 20 area school districts, the Diocese of Rochester Department of Catholic Schools, Cambria Health Alliance (of Harvard Medical School) Division on Addictions, and regional offices of three national organizations, including: (1) The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), (2) the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), and (3) InfraGard, a program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation dedicated to information sharing between public and private sectors to help protect critical infrastructure. (Emphasis added).

"The problem" being addressed by the initiative was explained as follows:

    What is the Problem? Research indicates that cyber offenses among kids are increasing. This includes:     * Academic dishonesty     * Intellectual property theft     * Piracy of music, movies and software     * Online threats and harassment “cyber bullying”     * Credit card fraud     * Unwanted exposure to pornography     * Unwanted solicitations for sex     * Illicit purchasing of prescription and illegal drugs     * Writing and distributing malicious computer code     * Computer hacking.

The objective of the program were explained as follows:

What are the goals and objectives? • Act inclusively from ‘the ground up with a safer, more secure and responsible computing future in mind • Create, pilot, implement and evaluate research-driven Internet safety, information security and cyber ethics training for students, parents, educators and the adult workforce • Position the Rochester Region to assume a national leadership role on this issue and develop a template that can be applied nationally.

On the "Links" page, the organizations listed included the following:

An example of the peculiar (in my mind) survey that my child was being asked to participate in can be found here (Internet Explorer compatible only).

And, finally, we learn on the website that the initiative is headed by "Dr. Samuel McQuade, MPA, PhD, Graduate Program Coordinator at RIT's (Rochester Institute of Technology) Center for Multidisciplinary Studies and author of "Understanding and Managing Cybercrime" [Allyn & Bacon, 2005]", who is also a Graduate Program Coordinator - RIT, Fellow - Center for Advanced Defense Studies.

His bio. at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies is as follows:

An Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Dr. Sam McQuade teaches and conducts research in computer crime, criminal justice, security, technology and other related topics. With 25 years experience in criminal justice practice, teaching and research, Dr. McQuade specializes in criminal justice, security technology administration and in computer and cyber crime.

Prior to joining RIT, Dr. McQuade served as a computer crime manager with the National Institute of Justice of the U.S. Department of Justice, as a study director with the Committee on Law and Justice of the National Research Council, and as a deputy director for research and resource development with the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department.

Dr. McQuade holds a Bachelor of Arts in human services management from Western Washington University, a Master of Public Administration from the University of Washington Graduate School of Public Affairs and a Doctorate in public policy from the George Mason University School of Public Policy. His latest textbook, Understanding and Managing Cybercrime, was published in October 2005 by Allyn & Bacon Press.

From another bio.:

Sam McQuade currently serves as the Professional Studies Graduate Program Coordinator at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He is a former Air National Guard security officer, deputy sheriff and police officer, police organizational change consultant, National Institute of Justice Program Manager for the U.S Department of Justice, and Study Director for the Committee on Law and Justice at the National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences. Professor McQuade holds a Doctoral Degree in Public Policy from George Mason University, and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from the University of Washington. He teaches and conducts research at RIT in areas inclusive of computer crime, security technology administration, and career options in technology-oriented societies. Dr. McQuade also oversees a professional concentration of graduate courses pertaining to Security Technology, which are now offered through RIT's Professional Studies Masters of Science Degree. His new textbook titled, Understanding and Managing Cybercrime, was published by Allyn & Bacon/Pearson Education in 2006.

I decided to research Dr. McQuade a bit and found the following interesting tidbits. 

It turns out that he is the RIT contact for a collaboration between RIT and the Department of Homeland Security:

RIT, through its eight colleges and many centers, conducts leading research and training programs which address the mission of the Department of Homeland security to:“Prevent terrorist attacks within the US; Reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism; and minimize the damage from potential attacks and natural disasters.”  This catalog identifies some of these areas of research and opportunities for collaboration in these fields...

At the end of the document, we learn that one of the areas of research is determining the "Causes and Correlates of High Tech Crime"

...The Department of Criminal Justice at RIT is engaged in multidisciplinary research into the causes and correlates of high tech crime, as well as its impacts on human behaviors, processes, organizations, and systems.For example, current research includes investigation of computer-enabled illicit activities of criminal subcultures and transnational organized crime groups in relation to music, movie, and software piracy. Other research seeks to understand sociological, criminological, and psychological factors underscoring the potential for such crime, as well as policy interventions for preventing and controlling high tech  crime.

From a Power Point presentation by Mr. McQuade:    

Today’s under-educated and trained students are tomorrow’s naive employees, insider offenders and external attackers.

From another Power Point presentation:

Post 9-11 concern for physical and information infrastructure protection has galvanized around the following threats:...15. Cyber Terrorism and Crime...

High Tech Offending and Victimization by and Among Adolescents--Anecdotal and empirical evidence of: *IP theft (music, movies and software) *Data snooping, password cracking and hacking *Credit card and other high tech fraud *Cyber bullying via blogs, chat rooms and websites *Online suicidal pleas and homicidal threats including bomb threats *Online stalking, pedophilia and solicitations for sex *Academic dishonesty  (hmmm, sounds an awful lot like the list from the RRCSEI web site, doesn't it?)

Research reveals to be effective cyber ethics education needs to be “salted” across the curriculum and reinforced with rewards and sanctions School officials necessarily react and innovate in ad hoc ways that seem reasonable given political realities and available resources. (emphasis added)

From a recent opinion piece by Mr. McQuade:

Adolescents are increasingly learning from each other how to use interoperable and increasingly affordable and miniaturized gadgets such as handheld computers, cell phones, PDAs, MP3 players and other devices in ways that can be harmful.       

Rochester Institute of Technology is teaming with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Information Systems Security Association, Infra Gard, the Catholic Diocese or Rochester and more than 20 area school districts to conduct research designed to determine the nature and extent of cyber offending and victimization by and among primary and secondary school students. We then hope to determine how best to implement cyber information, safety and ethics instruction into curricula.

From a recent article about Dr. McQuade:

McQuade contends that a generation of computer users—today’s youth of nearly all ages—is not being properly educated in computer ethics and information security. He depicts so-called computer addiction—for which his studies have shown empirical evidence—as a public health problem. However, he adds, these areas suffer from a lack of prior research—an obstacle he is confronting by exploring the expansion of his research to primary- and secondary-school levels.   

In addition to research and teaching core graduate-level courses in the cross-disciplinary professional studies program, McQuade is working with faculty from CAST and other RIT colleges to create a concentration in security technology and a center for security and safety technology that will examine various functional and technical categories of technology and their implications for organizational and societal well-being, he says.

“We see all of this as interconnected, multidisciplinary and applied in nature,” he says. “Because security technology and management play an integral role in so many disciplines, it’s important for students studying in many different fields—especially during the current era of worldwide terrorism—to be exposed to the implications for various employment sectors.” (Emphasis added).

I also learned from this Democrat and Chronicle article that a substantial research sample of children in grades K-12 has already been obtained:

"I didn't realize the extent to which they are committing harm and exposed to harm at such young ages," said Sam McQuade, who surveyed 13,778 students in kindergarten through 12th grade from five school systems. 

The research, which he presented to the U.S. Department of Justice in July but has never before been made public, shows that: # Cyber bullying starts in second grade. # Eight percent of second- and third-graders said they had been asked private things about their bodies and had been told or shown private things about someone else's body. # Illegal downloading starts in fourth grade. # Among seventh- through ninth-graders, 21 percent have lied about their age online and 23 percent have downloaded music illegally. # In grades 10 through 12, 58 percent of students have illegally downloaded music, 27 percent have illegally downloaded movies and 22 percent have illegally downloaded software.

McQuade is now surveying 75,000 additional students at nine more school districts in Monroe County. Those findings are expected to be available in January.

"We have spent enough time for now on enforcement and regulation strategies for compliance. We need to focus on education and early interventions to prevent the offending," he said.  (Emphasis added).

So, let's summarize, shall we?  This guy is an ex-cop and employee of the DOJ.  He is working with both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to fight cybercrime from the "ground up"--presumably starting with my daughter in kindergarten--by indoctrinating kids at a young age regarding government-defined "ethics" in order to "prevent offending" "especially during the current era of worldwide terrorism." 

The concept of protecting kids from the hot button issues of online predators and cyber-bullying is also sprinkled in amongst the goals, in an effort to divert attention from the primary goal--which appears to be fighting cyber-crime by brainwashing today's ethically defunct youth.

He's already surveyed a sizeable sample of over 13,000 kids.  Does he really need to subject 90,000 more to a somewhat creepy and peer pressure induced survey to determine what I could have already told him based upon my own observations:  kids are using computers at a young age and are illegally downloading music and movies? 

Hello.  Not exactly rocket science, my friends.

And, why are so many schools participating in this project, which is no small undertaking.  Each instructor receives 2 hours of training prior to administering the surveys and valuable school time is wasted in order to test the kids.  I can only surmise the in addition to being able to tout that they're trying to "protect the kids" from online predators, the schools are receiving some sort of financial benefit as a result of participating.

But, perhaps I'm making mountains out of mole hills?  I would greatly appreciate input from my insightful readers as to your interpretation of the data that I've found.

Is the government trying to profile our kids at a young age and indoctrinate them into accepting governmentally defined ethics so that they'll "stay in line" and avoid committing terrorist acts against our country in the future, or is this simply an innocent attempt to ensure that our kids are protected and knowledgeable?

I'm going with the former.  And, guess what?  I'm opting my kid out of the survey.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Scott Greenfield

While "civics" have always been taught to school children, it seems to me that you've connected the dots properly.


No way I'd ever let one of my kids participate in this invasion of their privacy. If they just want to "teach" the kids about internet ethics and the dangerous of cyber stalkers, then why make it a "survey"? They are mining data and creating a database of your child's internet usage.

This reminds of the ridiculously ignorant program of having children "fingerprinted" to prevent kidnapping. Less than 25% of missing children are attributed to "strangers," meaning that more than 75% of missing children are taken by a family member, and almost 50% by a non-custodial parent. Yet, people go have their kids fingerprinted, to be place in a national database which can be accessed by law enforcement without court supervision.

This internet "survey" is the same thing.


This looks to me like a tyrannical assclown is fed up with the free flow of information that takes place on the internet and is using new methods to curttail it. There was a time when telling your kids not to talk to strangers was enough but in the new age of fear and hysteria, we need to PREVENT POTENTIALLY unsafe behavior in kids.

I guess we all need to make the dicisions for ourselves whether we want the government or us raising our children. Kudos to you for taking the responsibility to do it yourself.


I compliment you on your follow up and involvement in your child's education. I do think you are overreacting a bit. Kids tend to view the web world as a "virtual" reality when it is plain old reality and you can get in trouble my not being careful or by doing something that is just as wrong on net as it would be off of it. (Setting aside the question of what exactly should be illegal which, although it relates, is not at all the same question.) Educating them about this seems like a good idea. I know four year olds who are pretty good at exploring the net. Also, some (many?) parents are not as computer capable as their offspring and may not know what all their children need to be aware of. Drivers ed programs in schools teache the rules of the roadway. Why shouldn't schools teach these rules too?


Ken commented on the 'This ridiculously ignorant program of having children "fingerprinted" to prevent kidnapping.' where the fingerprints would be put 'in a national database which can be accessed by law enforcement without court supervision.'

Well, yes, that would be ridiculously ignorant. But if course it's not the way it works today. You get you kid fingerprinted and they give you the one and only fingerprint card to take home with you. Then, if the child is kidnapped, you hand the fingerprint card to the police. Only then is it put in a police database.

Concerned Parent

Interesting blog, you point out several issues that have been addressed in public forums and community meetings.

What you fail to realize, is that the second round of surveying to is to compile a complete and expand view on the material.

You say our research is "not rocket science", but can you provide me any data backing up your claims? Parental observation is one thing, but defining the problem with completed data to allow for educational reforms to be enacted is another. That is the point of this study, the gather data about the problem.

Also, you make the survey sound as if its a "moral evil" to learn how our children are victimized online. It is also completely voluntary for students to participate, they do not have to take the survey, and encouraged to make up their own mind to take the survey.

If the survey was inappropriate for children to take, why would the schools get involved? My son took the survey, and I am happy to see that he took the survey. Right now I am awaiting my district's results about the study, and eager to see if the "problem" is as bad Dr. McQuade says it is.

The comments to this entry are closed.