Whether consciously or unconsciously, apps, internet service providers, and even schools could be selling or releasing data related to students’ — and teachers’ — locations, browsing habits, email content, and even direct messages. Over the past several months, the White House and Congress have called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to increase protections for individuals. However, little has been said about district-issued devices and internet access.

Privacy is an often-overlooked barrier to digital equity. Although a number of laws intend to protect students (i.e., FERPA, CIPA, COPPA), the rush to adopt technology during the pandemic inadvertently put millions of students, families, and educators at risk. Researchers from the International Digital Accountability Council found that dozens of education apps sold student data — including demographic details and location services — to third parties that ranged from Google and Facebook to law enforcement. A May 2022 article from the Washington Post reported that education apps sold students’ data at a ‘dizzying scale, and a global investigation of 164 edtech apps found that 89% of them collected data that violated children’s rights. Given the increasing need to leverage technology for learning, students, teachers, and their families often have to sacrifice their privacy (either knowingly or unknowingly) in order to do so.

However, given the current social and political climate, the biggest threat to students’, teachers’, and families’ privacy could be the use of monitoring software on district-issued devices. Federal legislation requires schools to monitor students’ technology use on district-issued tablets, computers, and networks — including hotspots — out of safety and compliance concerns. The equity issue arises when systematic monitoring turns into surveillance. While schools have always monitored students’ technology use in school, it becomes a different issue once it starts happening inside their homes and after school hours.

Read the full article about data privacy by Beth Holland at The Learning Accelerator.