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More about the project

Why study student privacy?

In both formal and informal educational settings, increasingly powerful and innovative ICT products and services—many of which depend on cloud computing technologies, particularly Software as a Service (Saas) based tools—offer tremendous potential for schools to provide educators and students with new platforms and tools to shape, improve, and expand learning experiences, even in the face of continually shrinking budgets.

But the significant benefits that cloud-computing technologies may afford do not come without associated tradeoffs and potential costs. In education, as in other sectors, customers moving from on-premise products and services to cloud-computing solutions must grant the cloud provider access to potentially vast amounts of customer data. Significant questions about precisely what information the vendor might access and collect and what the vendor might do with this information are rapidly emerging in a number of areas where cloud services are being deployed, and educational settings tend to illustrate and amplify many of the most critical privacy questions and concerns.


We will conduct research and analysis within each cluster (informed by other clusters, as appropriate), while keeping in mind our ultimate objectives: the creation of accessible, translational works and the development of shared best practices that allow stakeholders to take advantage of innovations in “the cloud” while taking student privacy challenges into account. As a starting point, we are engaging with and building upon key questions that emerged during our “Student Privacy in the Cloud Computing Ecosystem” workshop, highlighted in our workshop report. We also work closely with Berkman Center teams focused on related, and potentially synergistic projects, including the Cyberlaw Clinic, Youth and Media team, and Privacy Tools for Sharing Research Data project.


We aim to publish in an iterative, “rolling thunder” approach. We’ll offer a variety of outputs, from event summaries to FAQs to more formal policy briefs, research reports, and white papers, and will update this page to link out to these discrete works. We may also develop different versions of similar works, tailored to the needs and interests of different stakeholders and audiences. Our project team will also periodically feature work by external collaborators.