This Week in Student Privacy: 10/14
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Ed Tech Companies Sign Pledge to Protect Student Privacy
Last week, “a coalition of ‘school service providers,’” including Microsoft, Edmodo, and Gaggle, “signed a pledge to safeguard student information privacy and security.” Companies who signed the pledge have promised to “clearly disclose what type of personal information they collect about students, and for what purpose…[and] not to sell the information or use it to target advertising at students.” The full pledge, “developed by the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) and the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF),” can be found here. According to Politico, “the pledge drew immediate criticism from privacy advocates,” citing in particular the fact that “[n]either Apple nor Google signed the pledge,” and that the “pledge doesn’t require companies to get parental consent — or even to give parents advance notice — before collecting intimate information on their children’s academic progress and learning styles.” However, supporters of the pledge, including Representatives Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Luke Messer (R-Ind.), feel, in the words of Rep. Polis, that it “‘will go a long way toward addressing the legitimate concerns that parents have about how data is collected and used.’” For more information on this story, visit Education Week, PCWorld, The National Law Review, and American Public Media’s Marketplace.
Adobe Tracks Digital Editions e-book and PDF Reader Users
Last week, The Digital Reader reported that “Adobe is tracking [Digital Editions e-book and PDF reader] users and uploading the data to their servers” in less than a secure manner by “gathering data on the ebooks that have been opened, which pages were read, and in what order.” Adobe’s response to the tracking allegation can be found here. Digital Book World and Ars Technica also reported on the story.
Microsoft Unveils OneNote Class Notebook Creator
Last week, Microsoft unveiled its “OneNote Class Notebook Creator,” an app which lets “teachers quickly set up a personal workspace for every student, a content library for handouts, and a collaboration space for lessons and creative activities.” To see how a video of how the app works, click here. For more information on this story, visit GeekWire, PCWorld, and Education World.
The National Science Foundation Awards Grant to Data-Mining Research Project
In early October, “the National Science Foundation awarded a $4.8 million grant to a coalition of prominent research universities aiming to build a massive repository for storing, sharing, and analyzing the information students generate when using digital learning tools.” Carnegie Mellon University will lead the project “to improve educational outcomes and advance the science of learning by creating a large, distributed infrastructure called LearnSphere.” According to Education Week, the project has raised “new questions” in the student privacy debate, and “prominent student-data-privacy advocates [have] expressed reservations about the initiative, saying that rapid expansion in the collection of students' digital data, even when done primarily for research purposes, is fraught with potential problems related to notification, consent, and data ownership.” However, supporters of the project feel the student data analysis “will be able to improve teaching and learning through data-driven course design” and “help researchers obtain deeper insights into how people learn.”
- Politico reports on potential “regret over [the] inBloom backlash.”
- Politico reports on Elonis v. United States, a case the Supreme Court will hear later this year that “tackles the question: When should a person's threatening speech online be taken seriously as threats under the law?” The answer matters for educators and administrators, as students sometimes engage in such speech.
- Last week, “eight Richmond, VA School Board members… released a joint statement accusing the ninth member, Tichi Pinkney Eppes, of breaching confidential student information.” According to the statement, it is “estimate[d] that approximately 20 student records were compromised.”
- Vermont Public Radio reports on Dartmouth College computer scientists’ StudentLife app, “the first of a kind StudentLife smartphone app and sensing system to automatically infer human behavior.” In order to “shine light on student life,” the app “uses passive and automatic sensing data from the phones of a class of 48 Dartmouth students over a 10 week term to assess their mental health… academic performance… and behavioral trends.”