K-12 Leaders Unite for ‘Check the Privacy,’ a One-Stop Shop for Safe...

Data Privacy

K-12 Leaders Unite for ‘Check the Privacy,’ a One-Stop Shop for Safe Classroom Tech

By Emily Tate     May 1, 2019

K-12 Leaders Unite for ‘Check the Privacy,’ a One-Stop Shop for Safe Classroom Tech

For years, the privacy community has been urging educators to be more intentional—and careful—about introducing new tech tools in their classrooms.

But expecting teachers to wade through the legalese of every vendor’s privacy policy may be too much to ask for. And requesting that they apply for, then wait for approval on, each new app that catches their eye? That can prove tedious and inefficient—especially with most districts now running more than 500 edtech products per month. Even efforts to rate and review products’ privacy features have been stymied, with so much competing, contradictory information now available.

But a coalition of K-12 privacy leaders promises a better solution. Called Check the Privacy, the initiative, announced Wednesday, aims to provide a one-stop shop for educators searching for safe, secure tools to use with their students.

Check the Privacy contains a searchable library of more than 7,000 edtech products, with information about their privacy protections, compliance with major student data privacy legislation and endorsements by major organizations and privacy projects.

Check the Privacy
A screenshot of Check the Privacy's searchable library of more than 7,000 edtech products.

The idea for something like this has been bubbling for a long time, says Marlo Gaddis, chief technology officer of North Carolina’s Wake County Public Schools and a founding member of Check the Privacy.

“Part of this is born out of social responsibility,” Gaddis tells EdSurge. “It doesn’t matter if it’s my kids or Miami-Dade’s—student data privacy is an important piece for us to look at as a community. We’re all trying to solve the same problem.”

Indeed, thousands of schools and districts have tried tackling this issue on their own, as have nonprofit organizations. States like California and Connecticut have developed their own hubs where educators can find software that has been vetted for compliance with privacy rules. Common Sense also maintains a database of education apps with information about their privacy practices.

But such efforts deserve more collaboration and coordination, says Karl Rectanus, co-founder and CEO of LearnPlatform, the edtech system that is powering Check the Privacy’s digital library.

“There’s a ton of repetition and redundant effort out there,” Rectanus says. “It’s a confused landscape with different sources of information in what has traditionally been a low-trust market between districts and providers.”

Thus, the need for one place that teachers, administrators, parents and providers can go for unbiased, transparent information about any edtech tool—at no cost.

The Check the Privacy website is up and running, but the library has not yet launched. It will be ready before the start of the 2019-2020 school year, Rectanus says. In the interim, edtech vendors are encouraged to update their privacy policies and terms of service, he says.

On top of those items, the searchable library will include a brief description of each product, a place for educators to write and read reviews, pricing information and additional privacy resources and snapshots from education privacy groups including Project Unicorn, Data Quality Campaign, Future of Privacy Forum and Student Data Privacy Consortium.

As companies shut down, new ones launch and others evolve, the Learn team and Check the Privacy’s advisory board of 20 state and district leaders will update the library to ensure that privacy information for products is up to date.

“Edtech [products are] flashy and exciting,” Gaddis says, “but sometimes they’re not safe. Sometimes they’re not instructionally sound either. It’s our job as district leaders to make sure we’re transparent, that we have good intentions and that we are intentionally picking things that meet student needs.”

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