Study reveals student privacy concerns


Let’s hope it doesn’t lead to an academic version of HIPAA.


A brand-new report from the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) came out today represented by a press release detailing how the summer 2021 study found concerns about student privacy.


The study in question asked parents, students and teachers various questions about current educational technologies and how they might impact learning communities.


69% of respondents were concerned about student privacy, while 82% of students wanted direct input into the use of student data systems. 26% of these students, the study reported, had been asked for such input.


Other aspects of the study titled “Navigating the New Normal” showed issues of equity – for example, spokespersons mention that 61% of parents overall had concerns about law enforcement viewing student data, that number among African-American parents was 69%.


“Given the increase in parents’ concerns and their absence in student privacy discussions, this is an important moment for school systems to not only fulfill their legal obligations but orient their student privacy efforts toward keeping students safe and protecting their well-being, which means going beyond the bare minimum,” said Elizabeth Laird, the Director of Equity in Civic Technology at CDT. “To do this, we must ensure that all students are able to receive the benefits of data and technology and that the risks do not disproportionately fall on any particular group of students.”


An article on with an infographic on the studies shows specific capabilities that are raising eyebrows in EdTech.


New systems apparently allow remote users to track logins, view student activity in real-time, flag keywords, and even close browser tabs when students are off-task.


While all of this might generate significant debate over student privacy, and many types of changes and improvements may be possible, there is no blanket provision of absolute privacy online.


“There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America.” ex-FBI Director James Comey famously said at a Boston College cybersecurity conference in 2020, and in general, he was right.


Still, it’s important to monitor the use of EdTech as part of your innovation portfolio, because these types of issues can move markets.