Are Edtech Companies Doing Enough to Protect Student Privacy?
Students are using more technology than ever before, but are we putting them at risk? Edtech companies have access to a lot of sensitive information about students. School districts might not even be aware of how the companies are using this data for their own commercial interests. Parents and educators have the responsibility to protect their children’s data until they become old enough to make those decisions for themselves. Without national guidelines in place, there is very little to hold edtech companies accountable to these standards.
Privacy Isn’t a Concern
One of the most pressing issues for concerned parents and educators is that privacy simply is not a concern for edtech companies. In a recent research study conducted by Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College, exploratory findings uncovered the fact that data privacy wasn’t even on the radar for edtech companies. Instead, these companies were focused more on gaining new customers and developing better products without regard to data privacy.
Protecting data might be more concerning if edtech companies had the legal expertise necessary to adopt better practices. Startups are often very lean and can’t afford to keep a lawyer on staff to help implement these programs. This sets them up for long-term failure because many companies don’t understand the ins and outs of federal privacy laws, state student privacy laws, and normal legal obligations such as disclosure. In other words, privacy isn’t a major concern because they don’t realize how big of a deal it truly is.
School Districts Must Be Responsible
School districts who are considering a particular edtech product must be more aware of what they are purchasing. Because edtech is mostly concerned with customer acquisition, they would be forced to consider data privacy practices if school districts demanded it. We must rally for more than the bare minimum in data protection for minor children. When the sales begin to drop due to this issue, edtech companies will start to take notice and apply best practices.
This can’t be just a one-time occurrence where school districts advocate for better data privacy measures. Edtech companies should continuously stay on top of changing laws and demonstrate an ongoing effort to follow them. School districts must be willing to ask hard questions on this topic every time a review of their current technology comes up. If necessary, schools need to hire their own legal advisor or consultant to ensure that the program is up to current laws.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that most edtech companies are falling painfully short of adhering to excellent data privacy practices. Our students and their information are at risk while the industry tries to figure out what the best practices are. In the meantime, school districts must hold companies to a higher standard and demand better practices before paying them for their services. This is the only way that we will begin to see effective change take place.