Bristol Uni students pen open letter to boycott the new attendance app

The app is ‘another example of uni complicity in apartheid and genocide of Palestinian people’

On Tuesday (March 5th) a group of Bristol Uni students, on Instagram as @studentactionbristol voiced their concerns about the new Check-In app and its connections to an Israeli company.

The check-in app, introduced at the beginning of term two, uses students’ live locations to track attendance when downloaded onto their phones.

The student group say the app is “invasive and controlling”, but mainly focuses on how the technology was “developed by an Israeli company (Ex Libris).”

They are calling for a boycott, saying it is “another example of uni complicity in apartheid and genocide of Palestinian people.”

The letter reads: “The university has so far ignored demands to boycott and divest from corporations complicit in Israeli apartheid and genocide.

“The university’s willingness to collaborate with an Israeli company, at the time of a genocide, to develop software to surveil students demonstrates their tokenistic commitment to the principle of decolonisation and refusal to address their complicity in the genocide of the Palestinian people.”

This problem has previously been protested against by students who have been lobbying the university to cut ties with arms companies that supply Israel amid the conflict with Palestine. Graffiti has appeared across campus highlighting the death toll of the conflict.

They have also raised concerns about the app’s connection to international students’ visas, as “the primary purpose of this technology is to monitor the attendance of international students whose visas require mandatory attendance, meaning their visas become under threat if the university reports low attendance.”

They plead that: “We expect our university to fight for our freedoms rather than submit to oppressive government demands.”

The letter continues by saying: “The information from this app can be used by border agencies or police. It is disgusting that the university is willingly collaborating with the surveillance state apparatus. We demand the university call out the government policies and use its power to stand up for our freedoms.

“The controlling and monitoring of our locations is fundamentally an affront to our freedom of movement, as well as a threat to our privacy.”

The letter concludes by saying “we demand the university desists from using the check-in app, complies with ‘Boycott, Divest, Sanctions’ and undertakes a genuine assessment of its material position as a beneficiary of colonialism.” You can read the letter here.

A spokesperson from Bristol University said: “It’s important that we register attendance at lectures and seminars. Checking in to classes is one of several ways we can monitor how students are engaging with their studies and if they are not attending, we may contact them to understand why, and offer support if appropriate.

“We’ve always registered attendance and in the past this has included physical or online registers, and UCard swipes.

“The check-in app was introduced at the start of this academic year and is a simple way for students to let us know they are attending their classes. The location of the device is only recorded at the time the check-in button is pressed. It is not recorded at other times and the app does not track students’ locations.

“The data collected is minimised to satisfy attendance purposes only. The University is not collecting data or using the app in a way that makes the data accessible to third parties.”

Concerning the issues surrounding student visas, a spokesperson for the university said: “UK Visas and Immigration requires that students sponsored by universities have engagement with their studies monitored and reported to enable their visa sponsorship to continue.”

The university did not comment on the app’s software being developed by an Israeli company, or its relation to the current conflict.

Ex libris have been approached for comment.

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