Policy

Report Finds ‘Loophole’ in Federal Student Privacy Laws, Highlights Parent Concerns

Apr 14, 2017

SPYING ON STUDENTS: It’s no longer uncommon to see technology in the classroom (a third of all American K-12 students use school-issued devices), but ethical questions about how student information is being used and shared on edtech tools still linger. So the Electronic Frontier Foundation recently set out to see how edtech companies are (or aren’t) protecting student privacy and data. The findings may validate some privacy skeptics’ concerns: “Technology providers are spying on students—and school districts, which often provide inadequate privacy policies or no privacy policy at all,” the report summary reads.

Part one of the report analyzes issues around lack of transparency, choice and understanding of privacy implications, and found that “both students and teachers voiced a desire for better training in privacy-conscious technology use.” Part two looks at “major flaws” in U.S. federal and state privacy laws—in particular it points to a “loophole” in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, that enables school districts to get around parental consent requirements by “characterizing edtech companies as ‘school officials.’”

Finally, part three lays out recommendations for parents, educators and edtech companies. Among the advice: “ensure that all student data is at least encrypted in transit” and to never use school data “to engage in targeted advertising or to create profiles of students.”

Policy

Report Finds ‘Loophole’ in Federal Student Privacy Laws, Highlights Parent Concerns

Apr 14, 2017

SPYING ON STUDENTS: It’s no longer uncommon to see technology in the classroom (a third of all American K-12 students use school-issued devices), but ethical questions about how student information is being used and shared on edtech tools still linger. So the Electronic Frontier Foundation recently set out to see how edtech companies are (or aren’t) protecting student privacy and data. The findings may validate some privacy skeptics’ concerns: “Technology providers are spying on students—and school districts, which often provide inadequate privacy policies or no privacy policy at all,” the report summary reads.

Part one of the report analyzes issues around lack of transparency, choice and understanding of privacy implications, and found that “both students and teachers voiced a desire for better training in privacy-conscious technology use.” Part two looks at “major flaws” in U.S. federal and state privacy laws—in particular it points to a “loophole” in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, that enables school districts to get around parental consent requirements by “characterizing edtech companies as ‘school officials.’”

Finally, part three lays out recommendations for parents, educators and edtech companies. Among the advice: “ensure that all student data is at least encrypted in transit” and to never use school data “to engage in targeted advertising or to create profiles of students.”

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