Use these simple tips to protect online privacy in your classroom.
Online privacy is a moving target: Between the various laws (FERPA, PPRA, COPPA), the opaque language of privacy policies, and constant privacy breaches, it can be an anxiety-provoking prospect. And depending on your role in education, there are varying degrees of oversight in terms of what edtech to use. At the end of the day, though, protecting students' online privacy is everyone's responsibility.
If you're in a role where you make decisions about investigating and adopting edtech that involves student information, we recommend that you start with this one-hour course that covers the ins and outs of protecting student privacy. If you're a classroom teacher, consider the three basic questions below.
What student data are you sharing?
- Are you or your students inputting students' personal information, including their age, grade, address, email address, etc.?
- Are students creating original content that's stored on the platform or within the tool?
- Does the tool ask questions of students, who have to input answers, or communicate with others?
- If it's a free platform, is personal or usage data a source of revenue for the company, or is it funded some other way?
The ideal: Many platforms require some kind of student data, as outlined above. Ideally, the tool won't ask for any more information than is absolutely necessary for the tool to function, and the policy should state that the developers allow students and schools to maintain ownership and control of their content. In terms of funding, a free platform subsidized by partners/philanthropy is less likely to sell data, especially if it's made for schools. You can always check our privacy ratings, which include evaluations of data collection practices.
What happens to that data after it's shared?
- How and where does the tool store information?
- Do they share information with third parties? If so, under what circumstances?
- Are students personally identifiable?
- Is student data used for targeted advertising?
- Does the tool itself include ads or purchases that students could potentially click on?
The ideal: Whatever student data is collected should be securely stored, and data shouldn't be shared or sold. In most cases, though, there's some language that allows for data sharing under specific circumstances or with affiliated companies that use the data to improve how the tool functions. In the case of kids, you want to make sure that data isn't shared or sold for advertising purposes, and language around "improving the experience" can be iffy. And, ideally, students should only be personally identifiable for teachers to track student progress, and the school should retain control of that data. In terms of free tools that contain ads, it's best to avoid them if you can. Our privacy ratings analyze how companies store student data. Either way, you can use these platforms as an opportunity to discuss how they function—and how they make money—as you cover the importance of media literacy skills!
Are there settings that can make it safer?
- Are there ways to opt out of data collection?
- Are there settings that allow students to allow access to certain features only when the tool is in use?
- What other limitations are available to set within the tool or on the device?
- Training Course: Protecting Student Privacy
- Keeping Your Students (and Yourself) Safe on Social Media: A Checklist
- Our "Practicing Digital Citizenship" Infographic on the Apple Education Community site
Lessons for privacy protection to use with students
- Meet Guts of the Digital Citizens
- Safety in My Online Neighborhood
- Internet Traffic Light
- That's Private!
- The Big Data Dilemma
- Risk Check for New Tech
- How Young Is Too Young for Social Media?
- Debating the Privacy Line
Fun privacy video!
Check out this video (made by our own Steve Garton) about the "creepy factor" of data tracking, and use with students when you want to enjoy some musical levity!
(Pressing play on the YouTube video below will set third-party cookies controlled by Google if you are logged in to Chrome. See Google's cookie information for details.)