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Past Project

Student Privacy Initiative

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.

However, the significant benefits that cloud-computing technologies may afford do not come without associated tradeoffs and potential costs. Specifically, in education just 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.

Against the backdrop of these opportunities and challenges, the Berkman Klein Center Student Privacy Initiative—part of our growing suite of Privacy Initiatives—will begin and sustain a multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder conversation on student privacy. This Initiative, led by Executive Director Urs Gasser, will consider privacy and technological issues in a grounded way that accounts for how they may intersect with existing policy regimes as well as with emerging developments in educational theory (e.g., connected learning) and institutional practices (e.g., refining technology policies within an individual school), each of which may raise new costs, risk factors, and opportunities. Moreover, on the commercial side, the Initiative will take into account emerging business models and pressures tied to data collection and “big data”, trends that only increase the stakes associated with this inquiry. By bringing together representatives from these diverse perspectives alongside students, parents, and teachers, the Student Privacy Initiative hopes to consider student privacy and “the cloud” in a holistic way that balances the needs and objectives of each group. We endeavor to ultimately hone a shared set of good practices designed to support the many potential benefits of cloud-based technologies in educational settings.


Publications 05

Jul 30, 2015

Student Privacy: The Next Frontier

Emerging & Future Privacy Issues in K-12 Learning Environments

Building off several prior working meetings which mapped and considered the implications of the new and rapidly evolving ecosystem of networked technology being used with… More

Jun 2, 2014

Framing the Law & Policy Picture: A Snapshot of K-12 Cloud-Based Ed Tech & Student Privacy in Early 2014

This paper provides a snapshot of key aspects of a diverse—and heated—law, policy, and implementation debate that is taking place in the rapidly evolving cloud-based ed tech… More

Jan 15, 2014

Student Privacy and Cloud Computing at the District Level: Next Steps and Key Issues

This report offers recommended next steps and prioritized open issues in the K-12 educational technology (edtech) space, with a special emphasis on two topics: (1) law and policy… More

Jan 15, 2014

Youth Perspectives on Tech in Schools: From Mobile Devices to Restrictions and Monitoring

This research brief, prepared by the Berkman Center’s Youth and Media project for the co-organized Berkman Center and Consortium for School Networking working meeting on student… More

Jan 15, 2014

K-12 Edtech Cloud Service Inventory

Created for and informed by the co-organized Berkman Center and Consortium for School Networking working meeting on November 19, 2013, this document aims to provide individuals… More


News 41

Aug 11, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 8/11

This week, Future of Privacy Forum released “a new paper on the ‘de-identification’ of sensitive student information,” which discusses the value of student data, the types of… More

Aug 4, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 8/04

This report prioritizes open issues and offers recommended next steps in the ed tech and connected learning space, building from and reflecting upon a conversation organized by… More

Jul 28, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 7/28

"The 'Student Privacy Protection Act' aims to expand the scope of student information that is protected by law, place new obligations on both educational institutions and third… More

Jul 21, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 7/21

“Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Thursday introduced the Safe Kids Act.” The bill “[w]ould ban education companies — online homework portals,… More

Jul 14, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 7/14

Collectively, 28 school districts and school-based organizations have founded a new initiative, the Trusted Learning Environment. CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking) has… More

Jul 8, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 7/7

At ISTE 2015, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) released “a new analysis of how educators view their schools' and districts' use of technology and student… More

Jun 30, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 6/30

In a recent blog post, the U.S. Department of Education stated that the President’s effort to “rate colleges based on affordability and quality” “will be more about making… More

Jun 23, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 6/23

Group of Teachers Files Complaints Against California Virtual Academies According to The Washington Post, a “ More

Jun 16, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 6/16

Last week, the Oregon House of Representatives “passed a bill...to protect personal information of K-12 students shared online.” The bill “easily sailed through the Oregon Senate… More

Jun 9, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 6/9

In late May, “Central Florida's largest school district (Orange County) announced...that it had acquired new software that would allow it to grab and then analyze social-media… More

May 27, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 5/27

Last week, Chicago Public School officials confirmed that “[f]ive vendors seeking to do business with the Chicago school district were delivered real personal data of 4,000… More

May 19, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 5/19

Last week, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) reintroduced the Protecting Student Privacy Act of 2015 in the U.S. Senate... More

May 6, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 5/6

Last week, after several delays, Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Luke Messer (R-IN) introduced the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015. According to Natasha… More

Apr 15, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 4/15

Last week, the Maryland “House of Delegates and state Senate both passed bills to strengthen students’ online privacy by prohibiting universities from intruding on private social… More

Apr 7, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 4/7

According to Politico’s Morning Education, “Reps. Jared Polis and Luke Messer had planned to introduce a student data privacy bill last week, but their draft drew fierce criticism… More

Mar 31, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 3/31

Last week, “[t]he District of Columbia's Office of the State Superintendent inadvertently released confidential data for thousands of students while responding to a Freedom of… More

Mar 24, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 3/24

The bill, sponsored by House Reps. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), was supposed to be introduced in the House on Monday, but has been delayed due to criticism… More

Mar 17, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 3/17

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… More

Mar 11, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 3/10

According to Natasha Singer of The New York Times, several “Digital Learning Companies [are] Falling Short of [the] Student Privacy Pledge.” Singer reported that as of last week--… More

Mar 3, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 3/3

Last Friday, “[t]he Obama administration released a draft of new data privacy legislation [the proposed legislation can be found here], renewing a debate over how to regulate… More

Feb 24, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 2/24

According to info security, “Microsoft has become the first major cloud provider to adopt the first international cloud privacy standard developed by the International… More

Feb 17, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 2/17

"School Choice Wisconsin, which “lobbies for public money to support the education of children in private schools, made requests under the state’s open record laws recently to… More

Feb 10, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 2/10

According to Education Week, “[p]roposed student-data-privacy legislation being championed by President Barack Obama is being readied for introduction in the U.S. House of… More

Feb 3, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 2/3

Education Week obtained “a draft of the ‘Student Digital Privacy and Innovation Act,’ which President Obama called for in his speech at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on… More

Jan 26, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 1/26

A new statewide Illinois anti-cyberbullying law, which came into effect January 1st, “requires that elementary and secondary schools students provide social media passwords” to… More

Jan 13, 2015

This Week in Student Privacy: 1/13

President Obama “unveiled legislation to help protect consumers and students against cyberattacks” on Monday, January 12, 2015, during a visit to the Federal Trade Commission... More

Dec 16, 2014

This Week in Student Privacy: 12/16

Two weeks ago at a symposium on student privacy, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Kathleen Styles, the DOE’s Chief Privacy Officer, said, “‘Data in the higher… More

Dec 9, 2014

This Week in Student Privacy: 12/9

According to USA Today’s profile of Pavni Diwanji, Google’s Vice President of engineering, “beginning next year [Google] plans to create specific versions of its most popular… More

Dec 2, 2014

This Week in Student Privacy: 12/2

According to Politico’s Morning Education, “[p]arents organizing against PARCC's [Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers] new Common Core tests believe… More

Nov 25, 2014

This Week in Student Privacy: 11/25

ClassDojo, an app used by teachers to track and manage students’ behavior in class, has recently garnered media attention for its privacy practices. Last week, New York Times… More

Nov 18, 2014

This Week in Student Privacy: 11/18

In coordination with the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) and the Tor Project, Mozilla has announced a “strategic initiative . . . called Polaris.” More

Nov 11, 2014

This Week in Student Privacy: 11/11

Last week, Harvard University “revealed that it secretly photographed some 2,000 students in 10 lecture halls last spring as part of a study of classroom attendance... More

Nov 4, 2014

This Week in Student Privacy: 11/4

The Williamson County, Tennessee School District is “being accused of violating the constitutional rights of students over a policy that allows school officials to search any… More

Oct 28, 2014

This Week in Student Privacy: 10/28

Last week, Superintendent of Los Angeles schools John Deasy announced his resignation. Deasy faced “strong criticism over the troubled rollout of [his] $1.3-billion effort to… More

Oct 19, 2014

This Week in Student Privacy: 10/19

On October 15 the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) announced the release of “Who is Reading Whom Now: Privacy in Education from Books to MOOCs,” by Jules Polonetsky and Omer Tene,… More

Oct 14, 2014

This Week in Student Privacy: 10/14

Last week, “a coalition of ‘school service providers,’” including Microsoft, Edmodo, and Gaggle, “signed a pledge to safeguard student information privacy and security.” Companies… More

Oct 7, 2014

This Week in Student Privacy: 10/7

Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA), “a sweeping measure aimed at restricting the use of… More

Sep 30, 2014

This Week in Student Privacy: 9/30

Last week, “the Dutch privacy regulator CPB . . . found that a company (Snappet) renting tablets to schools violated the privacy of students..." More

Jun 3, 2014

New Report from the Student Privacy Initiative: A Snapshot of K-12 Cloud-Based Ed Tech & Student Privacy in Early 2014

The Berkman Center's Student Privacy Initiative is pleased to announce a new publication, Framing the Law & Policy Picture: A Snapshot of K-12 Cloud-Based Ed Tech & Student… More

Jan 16, 2014

Student Privacy Initiative Announces Three New Publications

As part of its ongoing Student Privacy Initiative, the Berkman Center is excited to offer a number of related publications that synthesize diverse conversations, distill next… More

Nov 12, 2013

Student Privacy in the Cloud Computing Ecosystem: State of Play & Potential Paths Forward

This report draws from ongoing Student Privacy Initiative research as well as participant inputs from an April 2013 exploratory workshop, "Student Privacy in the Cloud Computing… More


Events 02

Dec 8, 2015 @ 12:00 PM

State of Student Privacy

with Urs Gasser, Sandra Cortesi, Dalia Topelson Ritvo, Paulina Haduong, and Leah Plunkett

The Berkman Center’s Student Privacy Initiative will be taking stock of our student privacy work to date and exploring future directions. At this luncheon, the Berkman team will… More

Jun 3, 2014 @ 12:30 PM

Framing the Law & Policy Picture: A Snapshot of K-12 Cloud-Based Ed Tech & Student Privacy in Early 2014

Leah Plunkett, Alicia Solow-Niederman, and Urs Gasser

The Berkman Center’s Student Privacy Initiative team presents a snapshot of K-12 cloud-based ed tech and student privacy in early 2014 before turning to pragmatic law and policy… More