Learn more about our privacy resources
We certainly do live in interesting times. Distance learning has forced schools into a new reality and caused us to change the way we deliver education. It is no longer possible for technology to be optional as we deliver online instruction and resources directly to the home. Video-conferencing is now the platform for direct face-to-face communication and learning.
As we try to figure out how to navigate this new modality and prepare for the very different look of school start-up next year, we need to remember that privacy is an important consideration and should not be overlooked. We were given a pass to close out this school year because of the emergency nature of the pandemic, but you only need to look at the scrutiny placed on the video-conferencing app Zoom this year to see the increased public focus on student privacy and security moving forward.
The good news is that the Common Sense Privacy Program has tons of free resources to help you navigate the specific privacy concerns and needs of your school.
The core of our work is our free privacy evaluations:
- We are the only evaluators who read all of a product's privacy policies (yes, really). Using a custom-built policy annotator tool, we read each policy in its entirety and answer key questions about transparency (asking, was the issue clearly answered?) and qualitative results (asking, is this a better or worse practice with respect to student privacy?). Parents and educators can use our easy-to-understand privacy evaluations to make informed choices about the products they use at home and in the classroom.
- All our evaluations contain a privacy rating and score with a summary and a breakdown by category of different concerns with a fully detailed standard privacy report to easily compare products.
- Full evaluations consist of over 150 questions, and basic evaluations leverage the top 35 questions (as determined by the Common Sense District Privacy Consortium) for a high-level overview of the most important safety, privacy, security, and compliance issues.
- There are currently over 750 published evaluations on our site of the most popular consumer and educational apps, and we publish evaluations of new products every day.
Our research reports and in-depth smart-tech investigative articles include:
- The Privacy Risks and Harms report. This report provides detailed explanations of the potential social, emotional, and physical harms to children, with pages of supporting citations to use to clearly communicate the importance of privacy to staff and the community.
- The State of EdTech Privacy Report. This report takes our full evaluation information, gives a detailed analysis of edtech privacy trends, and breaks down each category to see how the industry as a whole is faring (spoiler alert: Not that great).
- Comparing the Privacy Practices of the Most Popular Smart Speakers with Virtual Assistants. This in-depth article examines the most popular devices used in homes and classrooms including Apple Siri, Google Home, and Amazon's Alexa.
- Enterprise-level software platforms are evaluated in our Privacy Evaluation of Top 10 District-Wide EdTech Products and in this updated look at enterprise apps.
- Smartwatch Privacy for Kids During the Coronavirus Pandemic is our most recent in-depth article and includes full privacy evaluations and hands-on security testing of the Apple, Garmin, Samsung, Fitbit, and Verizon GizmoWatch devices used by kids and teens.
- Stay tuned for our upcoming in-depth blog post series about smart-tech e-reader devices, which will examine the most popular e-reader devices used by kids at home and in schools, such as the Apple iPad and Amazon Kindle.
We also provide privacy training materials:
- Our online 45-minute training course for teachers, Protecting Student Privacy Online, offers concrete best practices for managing the risks to students.
- Our Information Security Primer provides step-by-step instructions for how students and educators can set up a security testing environment for web-based and mobile apps, and it covers basic testing scenarios, how to test responsibly, and how to disclose responsibly if and when testing uncovers vulnerabilities.
As an added bonus, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Privacy Direct, our convenient data source for all our extensive back-end privacy evaluation data, is now free for all schools:
- The Privacy Direct data file can be imported into your current LMS or app-approval process via a CSV spreadsheet. Choose the questions and categories that matter most to you.
- Save time and personalize your app-vetting and -approval process with detailed evaluation data on more than 750 of the most commonly used edtech and consumer products. Compare multiple tools at the same time, filter by privacy rating, and more.
- Also, an emailed PDF is included with a list of all the recently published evaluations with ratings and scores.
We know this is a difficult time. Let us help relieve your stress and anxiety about privacy concerns in your school or district when you do your due diligence. Also, keep up the good work you're doing for kids, and remember, we're here to help.
For more information, visit us at https://privacy.commonsense.org.