While we worry about big brother

So let’s talk about our children’s data privacy. While many are upset about the Maryland Longitudinal Data Store storing aggregate and de-identified data, there’s a more insidious risk — private companies hired by school systems to deliver learning content.

FERPA laws protect student data such as official records, standardized test scores and disciplinary history. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA”) provides for online privacy protections for children under the age of thirteen.

But what about all the data generated while our children complete online lessons, either in class or at home? Some examples: How quickly (or slowly) a student is working through a lesson? Or that he hasn’t logged on to the lessons for a week? Or that he’s getting certain types of questions wrong? Or that he performs better at 9:00am on a Wednesday than at 2:00pm on a Friday? What about what resources the child is looking at to complete a research project? The list just goes on and on.

This link is to a very long article, but it raises many questions about who is protecting our children’s data. Can we rely on the school system when everything is changing so rapidly that the laws aren’t keeping up? Data mining your children

A White House report recognizes the issues and recommends beefing up FERPA and COPPA. Read more at BIG DATA: SEIZING OPPORTUNITIES, PRESERVING VALUES

RECOMMENDATION: The federal government should ensure that data col-
lected in schools is used for educational purposes and continue to support
investment and innovation that raises the level of performance across our
schools. To promote this innovation, it should explore how to modernize
the privacy regulatory framework under the Family Educational Rights and
Privacy Act and Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and Children’s
Online Privacy Protection Act to ensure two complementary goals: 1) pro-
tecting students against their data being shared or used inappropriately,
especially when that data is gathered in an educational context, and 2) en-
suring that innovation in educational technology, including new approach-
es and business models, have ample opportunity to flourish.

So, let’s take this to a local level. What is our school system doing to protect our children’s privacy? What protections are being written into any contracts with third parties about selling data? What about data retention? Who can see the data? Is someone thinking about these issues?

Follow up: Adding a link to this board policy, which indicates releasing identifiable information is a concern and protecting it a priority. We have also heard from a teacher who told us that any requests to use sites for instructional purposes must be reviewed and pre-approved along with parental notification. As parents, we must always pay attention and ask for more information when we’re unsure.

And here is a link to the full student records manual

One thought on “While we worry about big brother

  1. Isabel

    Just another example of why we need to take an active role in our children’s education. Not only do we have to monitor homework, but we need to know where children are being asked to go on the Internet and how they are using technology. Good points.


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