The Education Technology market is closing in on $1.9B and most public-school systems are utilizing 1:1 initiatives to bring more tech to the classroom (Molnar, 2017). The whole school process is being digitized from registration to homework and it is time to stop and consider the vulnerabilities that are being created through technology. First, consider the technology used in administration; registration software, Learning Management System, Student Information System, Website, local servers, and office software. In administration alone, schools are subject to over five vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks and all these technologies are generally integrated with each other. Now add the classroom to the mix. Until recently, I've used roughly five to seven 3rd party integrations with office software during a school year. Now we have over ten vulnerabilities on any given school year that is subject to exposing student and teacher information across the internet. That information could be addresses, social security numbers, grades, assignments, health records, contact information, and online communication.
It doesn't stop there, how many folks have taken the time to research each EdTech company to verify their stance on privacy or security? How many of us actually read the Terms and Agreements? According to Jonathan Obar, 98% of us don’t read those terms and agreements before signing up. In his study, people actually agreed to sharing their private information with the NSA and surrendering their first-born child as payment to have access to technology, the conditions were found in the Terms and Agreements (Vedantam, 2016).
Now you might be a little relieved to find out that both Microsoft and Google have pledged to protect student privacy; however, Google is currently being sued by the state of Mississippi for their current and past notorious bouts with utilizing student data to drive their ad service - this is how they combat their free service with some revenue. This will be a later conversation, but when companies market their free service, it generally isn't free.
Tips before Signing Up
Tools for Protecting Student Privacy
Consider allowing students to turn on in private browsing through the internet browser and ask that they clear the history before logging off of the computer and at home. Be sure to discuss their digital footprint and how it is utilized in data collection. BrowserSpy is a nice tool to check what your internet browser leaves behind. Look for tools such as Privacy badger to block Ads and prevent advertisers from secretly tracking you (Barack, 2017). Use https://privacy.commonsense.org/ to check out Commen Sense Tech evaluations. Lastly, take the pledge: https://studentprivacypledge.org/.
Our data is continuously being tracked, sold and purchased and it is important for students and schools to know and understand the importance of privacy. Carelessness could result in significant problems for students in the future.
Barack, L. (2017). The Problem with Student Privacy, and How to Protect It. Retrieved from: http://www.slj.com/2017/01/technology/the-problem-with-student-privacy-and-how-to-protect-it/
Molnar, M. (2017). K-12 Ed-Tech Platform and Tools Market Value to Increase to $1.83 Billion by 2020, Report Says. Retrieved from: https://marketbrief.edweek.org/marketplace-k-12/k-12-ed-tech-platform-tools-market-value-increase-1-83-billion-2020-report-says/
Vedantam, S. (2016). Do You Read Terms Of Service Contracts? Not Many Do, Research Shows. Retrieved from: http://www.npr.org/2016/08/23/491024846/do-you-read-terms-of-service-contracts-not-many-do-research-shows