Teachers, Privacy Protections and the Law


2 years ago, the student data privacy debate sparked and created an awareness not only between schools and vendors but also with legislators. Parent concerns grew at this time as the controversy surrounding inBloom grew and fears of misuse of student data increased. In response to this, legislators in 36 states introduced 110 bills on student data privacy. By 2015, we saw even more legislation with 188 bills introduced. SOPIPA came into effect which addressed the need for regulation of the Ed-Tech industry. We spent a considerable amount of time discussing SOPIPA but what we didn’t discuss much was a law passed in 2013 in Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s student Data Accessibility, Transparency, and Accountability Acts (DATA Act) places its focus on the staff at the school, district, and state levels. At a time when parents were demanding transparency on how student data is gathered and used, this law did just that. For example, the law required that vendor contracts include provisions that safeguard privacy and included penalties for non compliance as Amelia Vance explains in NASBE’s Data Privacy Report. The law also restricted the ability to collect unnecessary sensitive data such as social security numbers and biometric information. Transparency in how and what data is collected is paramount in developing trust among parents. However, restricting the collection of certain data can bring unintended consequences. For example, limiting the ability to collect certain biometric data on students who have a learning disability. Let’s say a teacher is tracking eye movement and response to a child working on their reading skills. If a teacher can’t chart a student’s progress based on data collected they can’t have an effective assessment of that student.

Most recently, the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) introduced a model bill that could add privacy protections for students. But again, language meant to protect students could make it cumbersome for technology to be used to enhance student learning. The proposed bill includes language that parents opt in every time there is new technology used in the school. That could be somewhat complicated….just sayin’

Presenting parents with the information on what, how and why data is collected on students is what enables the dialogue between parents, schools and the Ed-tech world. We can all feel better that we have many laws, bills, proposed legislation and all of that, all of this work can be undone by school staff or teachers inadvertently disclosing student information or the use of technology in the classroom without adequate student privacy protections. So as much as we can argue that student privacy is important, that companies are working to ensure proper privacy protections none of it matters if we don’t have adequate training for school staff in particular teachers. Helping teachers understand student privacy is not only from a data collection perspective. They also need to understand privacy matters when they post their student’s work on social media or on school data walls with the student’s name for the school to see. But more importantly, as much as companies pledge to protect student data, if a teacher cannot explain to a parent how technology is used in the classroom how are they to partner with parents. We lose the opportunity to build a team composed of parents, school staff and tech companies that work together to protect student data and privacy. A new resource to help teachers understand student privacy was released by the Future of Privacy Forum and ConnectSafely appropriately called the Educator’s Guide to Student Data Privacy. This is a fantastic resource to help teachers use technology in the classroom responsibly and protect their students’ privacy.

Because think about it, if we trust our children to a school every day and we trust they are being taken care of, we should be able to trust schools and teachers are protecting our kid’s privacy as well.



Kids on privacy


My 9 year old takes better selfies than anyone I know, my 12 year old talks in “hashtag speak”, and my 3 year old swipes at every screen he sees….for most kids and tweens, technology and social media in particular is an integral part of their lives. In discussions around social media and digital citizenship we discuss privacy and how important it is to safeguard our personal information, but are kids concerned about their privacy and the implications of social media posting as we are (should) be?

We have been talking about parents posting about their kids on social media, the consequences of our actions on behalf of our own kids, but what happens when kids post about kids on social media? As I found out, it can get really messy. Kids growing up on social media is inevitable. Everyone gets to be a celebrity by blogging, tweeting or posting on Instagram and Facebook. But where it gets complicated is when kids begin to have a sense of privacy and request we, parents, don’t post about them. As parents, we respect their request and move on. For example, when kids take a selfie with their friends, who gets to post? Should anyone get to post and who decides? Unlike with their parents, kids might struggle with how they feel about their friends posting about them. And thus the privacy debate.

To most kids I have talked with, privacy comes down to having control about what they choose to disclose about themselves. So when a group of kids takes a selfie, kids need to decide who gets to post it, what comment is attached to the pic and what kind of platform it is posted on. And some could argue that a kid’s privacy is respected by not identifying them by name, by not “tagging” them. But it’s more complicated than that. Kids know the difference between public and private but we need to understand the real reasons kids take selfies and how it affects the way they view the world and how the world views them. I won’t claim to have an understanding on how they negotiate between themselves who gets to post what and who gets tagged and not, but I do know that kids are looking for us to help them navigate the complicated world of social media and protect their own privacy.

Kids have a good sense of ownership of their information and could advocate for themselves if allowed. It gets a bit more difficult for them when it’s a discussion between their peers. If one kid took a picture and posts it or shares the picture and then another posts it, what happens when kids don’t like what’s been posted about them? Because, once it’s out there, it’s out of their control. Who says what about whom? Who gets to post it first? As parents, we can help them by helping them discern between public and private, between what they feel comfortable disclosing and what is not ok. We can help them navigate this messy, complicated, social media landscape, and as more and more kids gain awareness of their own privacy, the discussions between kids will get more interesting. However, I don’t think many of these conversations are taking place between kids and we should help enable that dialogue to take place. Maybe once we acknowledge that they are owners of their information and let them decide, the conversations amongst peers will happen in a constructive way.

As my kids have repeatedly told me “privacy is what you keep private” – who gets to decide this is still up in the air. My bet is on the kids……