This Week in Student Privacy: 3/17
New Education Apps Spark Privacy Concern
The New York Times’ Natasha Singer wrote about how many new ‘adaptive learning’ products available to educators (applications which record and analyze student work to personalize their learning) have “left school district technology directors scrambling to keep track of which companies are collecting students’ information — and how they are using it.” According to Singer, “some districts have [already] experienced data breaches with software they purchased from vendors; in a few cases, student records have been publicly posted on the Internet.” As we’ve mentioned before, digital security researchers have already found weaknesses in many of the most popular digital learning services. For more, see iSchoolGuide and CheatSheat.
DQC and CoSN Release Ed Data Privacy Common Standards at SxSWedu
Last week, the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) released an online framework of common standards for education data privacy. According to EdSurge, “[t]he 10 principles aim to create basic standards for how edtech companies and districts approach data privacy by establishing clear expectations, which include giving families and educators timely access to data and imposing limits, so that companies can only access the data they need.” More than “30 nonprofits and associations have endorsed the framework, including the School Superintendents Association and the National PTA.” For more on this story, visit the Statesman, Education Week, The Journal or the Center for Digital Education.
South Korea’s Education Ministry Plans to Monitor Students’ Social Media
Last week, South Korea’s Education Ministry released its plan “to prevent suicides...by…[among other things]...monitoring student[s’] social media messages.” According to The Korea Herald, [t]he Education Ministry said it would work on “introducing an application and software that would alert parents if words suggestive of a suicide [were] used by a student in text and social media messages or Internet searches.” The plan reportedly “sparked controversy in Korea for being ineffective and unrealistic.”
Pearson Monitors Social Media During Administration of PARCC Common Core Test
According to The Washington Post, Pearson is “monitoring social media during the administration of the new PARCC Common Core test to detect any security breaches.” The monitoring was reportedly “revealed in a message that Superintendent Elizabeth C. Jewett of Watchung Hills Regional High School District in New Jersey sent to colleagues about a disturbing episode that she was made aware of by her district’s testing coordinator.” Later, it was posted on the website of Bob Braun, a former reporter, education editor and senior columnist at the Star-Ledger, who “called the monitoring of social media nothing less than ‘spying.’”
Colorado Parents, Education Board Members Question Pearson’s Student Data Privacy Protection
Last week, the Colorado State Board of Education hosted a public hearing, during which “ officials from the Colorado Department of Education and Pearson State Assessment Services tried to assuage fears and address rumors about what [student] data is being collected [during state testing] and why.” According to The Gazette, “State Board members and parents who attended say the responses were not good enough.” For example, “[s]ome questions were not answered,” and some board members and parents “want more assurances that information students are supplying won't be mined, shared or extrapolated for marketing or profiling purposes.” According to Chalkbeat Colorado, “[e]xecutives of the Pearson testing company tried to reassure the board about [the way] they handle student data.” Walter Sherwood, president of Pearson State Assessment Services, commented on Pearson’s policy regarding students’ information: “We do not share student information used in our assessment programs unless requested or authorized by the state….We do not sell any state assessment information to anyone.” However, some parent groups are still concerned about the potential collection of and access to unnecessary/inappropriate student information.
Yale Law School deletes admissions records
Last Tuesday was Yale Law School’s (YLS) annual “State of the School” address from Dean Robert Post. Joseph Pomianowski for The New Republic says that Dean Post announced that students who requested access to their records under FERPA would no longer receive anything: in light of a recent flood of student requests, YLS has “decided to destroy its student admissions evaluation records along with any notations made by the career development office in individual student files.” The recent rise in student requests was sparked by the recent news that Stanford students had successfully requested access to their admissions records, which prompted Stanford to also delete its admissions files. Harvard maintains applicant files for four years after they are processed. At YLS, “without advance warning to the student body, all of the admissions evaluation data in students’ files was deleted on February 22, 2015; additional information maintained by the career development office was deleted on March 3.
Student privacy was a hot topic at SxSWedu! Here are a few of the highlights:
- NPR published “Six Things We Learned At South By Southwest EDU,” specifically including some commentary on student privacy. According to the article, Elana Zeide, a research fellow at the Information Law Institute at New York University, “said that student privacy currently stands at the forefront of privacy law,” and “the flipside of the power of analytics and prediction is concerns about privacy.”
- EdSurge published a piece (also referenced above) about SxSWedu which argues that optimism has returned to the student data privacy conversation.
- Cameron Evans (CTO, Microsoft Education) wrote a blog post for TechNet about balancing the protection of student information and the use of student data to further educational innovation.
- The Washington Post covered a story about how privacy advocates are trying “to keep [the new] ‘creepy,’ ‘eavesdropping’ Hello Barbie from hitting shelves.” Apparently the Wifi-connected Barbie has “voice-recognition software that will allow the doll to ‘listen’ to children speak and give chatty responses.” The doll also learns over time.
- The Center for Digital Education published an article about the current “Landscape of Student Digital Privacy Legislation” in the U.S.
- This week, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) will host its 17th annual conference, which “will bring together 900 district tech leaders [in] Atlanta to talk shop over mobile technology, personalized learning, data and privacy, and the new kid on the edtech buzzword block: Deeper Learning.”
This update was compiled by Hannah Offer. Hannah is a senior at the Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences and a research assistant for the Student Privacy Initiative.