Remote Learning – Privacy and Data Security Challenges

These are US examples but the same applies on this side of the Atlantic, especially as remote learning is being rolled out in haste…:

[…] Cautionary Tales

Some recent examples of education technologies that have raised legal issues in the past few months include:

  • New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a lawsuit against Google alleging that the company uses its educational products to collect the data of children under 13 without parental permission. Google has also been sued in California by parents for allegedly selling and distributing Chromebooks that collect and store students’ facial and voice data, location data, and search histories without parental permission.
  • New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) is investigating Zoom about its privacy practices relating to its video conferencing application. New York City schoolteachers are now prohibited from using Zoom and Google Classroom’s videoconferencing programs because of safety concerns, according to the New York Education Department.
  • The California Department of Education recently announced the creation of a “Closing the Digital Divide Task Force.” The task force will assess the needs of all California students, including working with partners to secure devices and Wi-Fi hotspots to close the technology gap among students in response to a strong recommendation from State Superintendent Tony Thurmond for all schools to focus on remote learning models due to the COVID-19 health crisis. However, any solutions recommended or developed by the task force would, at a minimum, be required to comply with the California Student Online Personal Information Protection Act and the new California Consumer Privacy Act.
  • Students at Florida State University have signed an online petition challenging the use of remote learning software designed to detect academic misconduct. The university faculty has been using education technology that records web activity, detects the use of mobile devices to identify potential cheating, and accesses computer webcams and microphones to monitor student activity during exams. More than 5,000 students claim that the technology is a “blatant violation of our privacy as students.”
  • The World Privacy Forum Founder recently released a multi-year study on student privacy related to FERPA’s school directory information exemption. The report found that primary, secondary, and postsecondary schools used the exemption to bypass consent requirements and share students’ data.


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