After a Wait, Google Signs Pledge on Student-Data Privacy

Sean Cavanagh and Michele Molnar, Education Week,  Tuesday, January 20, 2015

After initially declining to sign up, technology giant Google has joined a growing number of companies committing to a "student privacy pledge" created by advocacy groups and endorsed by the White House. Google has come under heavy scrutiny for privacy practices that critics have feared would open the door to students' personal information being used for advertising purposes, and the company has revised its policies in the face of those questions. The privacy pledge is being sponsored by the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington-based think tank that advocates for responsible data use, and the Software & Information Industry Association, a leading trade association, also headquartered in the nation's capital.

Why Google is ignoring Obama’s challenge to sign the Student Privacy Pledge

Jeff Gould by Jeff Gould, SafeGov.org
Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Several months ago a group of privacy advocates and education software providers, with prominent support from the Obama administration, overcame their differences and agreed to a Student Privacy Pledge. The 12 commitments of this pledge make for a remarkably strong document that places important limits on how children’s data can be used by commercial firms. It comes at a time when interest and investment in education technology is booming as never before. Among the pledge’s key commitments...

Request for President Obama

Tracy Mitrano, Inside Higher Ed,  Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The oft-quoted "sale of student data to third parties" might sidestep another great offense involving use of education records: profiling. Companies such as Google do not sell the information that it mines; it uses that data for its own core business purposes of targeted marketing, advertising, or other commercial incentives. No doubt, sale of personally identifiable information in the consumer arena is one of the most common and egregious of business practices in the global information economy. Student information is particularly problematic because it violates existing law (FERPA) and because no one can predict to what uses that data will be made in the future of a student's long life. In particular, one could see how sensitive information collected (gender, class, race, ethnicity) could be used down the road for unforeseen purposes. But the main point is this: it is not just sale but the use to which the company doing the mining will make of the data that must be included in the scope of the proposed legislation.

Corporate student data privacy pledge

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Brad Smith, The Hill,  Thursday, October 23, 2014

The intersection of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act of 1998, a growing number of state laws, district policies, vendor contracts, and privacy policies create a situation in which it is hard to tell what protections and rights exist for children or for adults. To witness this trend is to worry that legitimate privacy concerns threaten to derail the potential of education technology to improve personalized learning.

Restoring Privacy in the Era of Big Data

Kris Alman, Student Privacy Matters,  Sunday, October 19, 2014

A parallel explosion of big data since 2001 is not coincidental. Big data utopians proclaim better integration of fragmented health and education sectors and data analysis will improve outcomes and improve value. The question never seems to be asked, “For whom?”

SafeGov Releases Results of Global Parents Surveys Relating to Student Online Privacy

Jeff Gould by Jeff Gould, SafeGov.org
Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Surveys of nearly 5,500 parents in 11 countries around the world, including Europe, Asia and North America, show that parents have high hopes for the contribution that Internet applications can make to their children’s education, especially when it comes to acquiring skills relevant to the modern global economy. At the same time, the vast majority of parents worry that internet companies are tracking and profiling their children’s online activities at school for advertising purposes, and they want such practices banned. Specifically, parents want stronger government regulations against online data mining in schools that isn’t directly related to improving academic performance, and they want schools to forbid such practices. The findings are based on a series of surveys conducted between 2012 and 2014 for SafeGov aimed at capturing global parents’ views on the benefits and risks of proliferating in-school access to internet applications such as email, document creation and group collaboration.

Accessibility Standards, Cloud Computing and Innovation

Tracy Mitrano, Inside Higher Ed,  Monday, July 14, 2014

What difference does cloud computing make with regard to accessibility? As a governance, compliance, and matter of risk management, the answer is essentially “no difference.” Accessibility is as much a compliance issue as privacy, security, and export control.

Trust But Verify Big Datamining Claims

H. Bryan Cunningham by Bryan Cunningham, Cunningham Levy LLP
Thursday, May 08, 2014

Much has been written in recent years about the benefits and risks of “free” cloud services monetized by providers mining the private data of users. These risks are particularly acute in some government cases, e.g., education applications mining the data of students, and applications used by law enforcement and national security agencies. I, along with others, have recommended that government entities include clauses in contracts with cloud providers prohibiting data mining. Some governmental contracting authorities have embraced this remedy.

Google Data Mining Changes: Privacy Reform Needed

Doug Miller by Doug Miller, Milltech Consulting
Thursday, May 08, 2014

By Doug Miller, Information Week Google's decision to end its practice of scanning student emails for advertising purposes -- and to make "similar changes" for all Google Apps customers -- is a major victory for privacy but raises new questions. Although the announcement is an important step, it raises questions about the company's practices in the past -- and for the future. Will Google stay committed to the "free" education space when it can no longer monetize student data?

Big Data and Our Children’s Future: On Reforming FERPA

Daniel J. Solove by Daniel Solove, TeachPrivacy
Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Last week, the White House released its report, Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values. My reaction to it is mixed. The report mentions some concerns about privacy with Big Data and suggests some reforms, but everything is stated so mildly, in a way designed to please everyone. The report is painted in pastels; it finesses the hard issues and leaves specifics for another day. So it is a step forward, which is good, but it is a very small step, like a child on a beach reluctantly dipping a toe into ocean.