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EFF survey reveals that ed-tech undermines student online privacy

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

18 April 2017

A report released this week by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on the effects of “educational technology” on the privacy of K-12 students found that the educational system is undermining the privacy of students and forcing them into using privacy-invading technology.

Concluding a two-year investigation, the EFF found that:

educational technology services often collect far more information on kids than is necessary and store this information indefinitely. This privacy-implicating information goes beyond personally identifying information (PII) like name and date of birth, and can include browsing history, search terms, location data, contact lists, and behavioral information. Some programs upload this student data to the cloud automatically and by default. All of this often happens without the awareness or consent of students and their families.

In short, technology 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.

After highlighting six main areas of concern, including lack of transparency, data concerns and lack of choice, the EFF’s report seems to indicate that a complete overhaul is necessary at the intersection of technology and education. While there are few people that would argue for tech-free classrooms, we are setting our children up for a privacy-free future by spying on them and collecting their data through educational hardware and software.

Of course, any conversation about privacy with school-age children has to involve both parents and school—which is why its so shocking that parents often aren’t even informed about the way in which “ed tech” affects their children’s online privacy.

In summarizing the findings of the survey, the EFF stated:

While there are educational advantages to incorporating technology into the classroom experience, the survey results reflect an overarching concern that children as young as kindergartners are being conditioned to accept a culture of surveillance. EFF maintains that children should not be taught that using the Internet or technology requires sacrificing personal privacy.

On this point, we wholeheartedly agree. The Internet of Things isn’t going anywhere, and its our responsibility to teach our children to protect their rights online. Forcing them to use privacy-invading technology is the opposite of this.

You can follow the EFF’s wider student privacy campaign here.

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