Spying on students: EFF report confirms PAA EdTech privacy concerns

For some time now, PAA has been raising red flags about the rapidly expanding use of education technology (EdTech) in our schools. Last summer we published a series of fact sheets and a 35-page documentation paper detailing some of the many concerns we have about EdTech. Since then, we have urged parents to ask questions at your local schools and supported legislative and other efforts to require more transparency and accountability from EdTech programs and businesses.

PAA’s concerns are multi-faceted. We worry about EdTech’s negative impact on students’ mental, physical and intellectual health, and question its effectiveness as an academic “magic bullet.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has recently published a report, “Spying on Students,” which addresses another of our major concerns about EdTech — its nearly uncontrolled school-based collection and use of private student data. EFF’s April 13 report confirms many of these concerns, and echoes our frustration that parents have been kept in the dark about EdTech and offered few ways to protect our children from its dangers.

The EFF report concludes, “(T)echnology providers are spying on students—and school districts, which often provide inadequate privacy policies or no privacy policy at all, are unwittingly helping them do it.”

EFF’s researchers found, among other things, that:

  • Schools issued devices to students without their parents’ knowledge and consent. Parents were kept in the dark about what apps their kids were required to use and what data was being collected.
  • With no notice or help from schools, the investigative burden fell on parents and even students to understand the privacy implications of the technology they were using.
  • The privacy policies of the 152 EdTech services referenced in the group’s survey responses were lacking in encryption, data retention, and data sharing policies.
  • Parents who sought to opt their children out of device or software use faced many hurdles, particularly those without the resources to provide their own alternatives.

The EFF report includes information about the shortcomings of industry self-regulation, loopholes in federal law, and policies in California, Colorado, and Connecticut that begin to address some of these concerns.

It also includes best practice recommendations for EdTech companies, schools, school districts, and related staff, and many good ideas for parents and students to advocate more strongly for EdTech transparency and accountability.

Posted on by Julie Woestehoff Posted in Misc

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