A Brunswick Insight survey was released earlier this week regarding digital privacy issues that affect school students. The online survey was conducted between August 25-28, 2012 and questioned 1,035 American adults who had children in grades 1-12. The survey's margin of error was +-3% at the 95% confidence interval.
The overall findings of the survey strongly indicate that U.S. parents care deeply about the digital privacy of their children. The survey results demonstrate that a national conversation is needed regarding student privacy in the Digital Age.
Overall, 93% of parents surveyed expressed concern regarding online tracking of their children. A majority of parents questioned (54%) stated they were "very concerned" about online advertising companies tracking the email and Internet usage habits of their children while in school in order to target them with Internet advertising. Even though more than nine in 10 parents surveyed were concerned that at some schools online advertising companies may be tracking the email and Internet usage habits of children in order to target them with digital advertising, almost half (49%) of parents stated they have heard "nothing at all" about this issue.
Interestingly, 84% of parents questioned stated that they would be likely to take action against online tracking in schools and 50% of those questioned stated they would be "very likely" to take action. Potential action that was listed in the survey's questionnaire included speaking out at a PTA meeting or calling a school official. This aspect of the survey was very telling because it indicates that parents are willing to take affirmative steps to protect the digital privacy of their children.
During the past year, parents across the United States have gone from indicating in surveys that they would be likely to take action to protect the digital privacy rights of their children to taking affirmative steps to stop practices they believe harm the digital privacy of their children. For example, parents in Delaware, California, New Jersey, and Michigan have worked to ban schools from being able to request or require students provide access to their personal digital accounts so schools may track their students' personal digital activities.
Parents and public school students in Texas have protested against being required to wear school identification badges embedded with RFID chips that digitally track their movements while at school. In Maryland, parents' outrage over schools that were utilizing palm scanners to obtain biometric data from students to pay for school lunches and potentially track the eating habits of students recently led to the termination of the program. The bottom line is that parents are willing to openly protest and take legal action against practices they believe may be putting their children in harm's way.
When parents are provided the tools and opportunity to make informed decisions they act to protect the data privacy and safety of their children. The findings of this Brunswick Insight survey indicate that more information and transparency is needed so parents may be able to learn more about these issues so they can take the appropriate steps necessary to protect their children's digital privacy and security.
Bradley Shear is a lawyer, speaker, and author who has advised state lawmakers across the United States and members of Congress on digital privacy matters.