You Protect Your Personal Data, What about Your Child’s?
Significant data breaches at Facebook and Starwood Hotels have left many people wondering: just how safe is my data? The answer is that it’s probably not, at least not all the time. That’s why you go out of your way to change your passwords, adjust your computer settings, and protect your records.
While medical records and passports have the greatest sale value on the dark web (reaching thousands of dollars), hackers are willing to sell information that goes for only $1 per person. If they sell enough, they can make a large sum of money. These thieves are always looking for untapped streams of data.
Therefore, your real question should be, how safe is my child’s data?
You might be surprised at what kind of data schools collect on students and their families.
Data collection on students begins the moment you enroll your child in school. You must provide their social security or state-issued ID number, date of birth, race and ethnicity, socio-economic status if qualifying for free and reduced lunch, and history of immunizations.
The school also has your address, contact information, and possibly a copy of one of your utility bills.
All of this information, including participation in any differentiated programs like special education, 504, or bilingual education, is reported to the district, local and state education agencies, and federal agencies.
The good news is that schools protect this information from those who shouldn’t see it.
Activity and assessment data
Of course, enrollment data is just the beginning of student data collection. The school staff will collect and report behavior infractions, participation in clubs, and how your child performs on assessments in each subject and what grades are earned.
In addition, the school nurse will screen for health conditions such as scoliosis and pre-diabetes (using a visual assessment); this information is also reported to various agencies.
Companies like Google are collecting not only personal data on schoolchildren but also data on browsing habits and what files students curate in Google Docs.
Fortunately, demographic, achievement, and health data are protected by HIPAA and FERPA laws. Your child’s private identity cannot be compromised.
Informal data collection
Not everyone is as careful about the data they collect on students.
Your child may have been asked to take a health survey in which they had to answer personal questions about what they do in their free time, including engaging in risky behaviors like smoking and having sex. School are required to get your permission for participation in these surveys, and you have the right to ask what will happen with the data afterward.
Even anticipated data can be collected. Marketed as a whole child approach to de-escalating behaviors, the Emote app allows school staff to record a child’s emotions. The idea is to share digital information with other educators who work with the student throughout the day.
The sheer amount of data collected on every child poses a threat to not only their identity safety but also the safety of their privacy.
Even highly personal questions, such as have you ever had chickenpox, or what is your blood type can be an invasion of privacy. The assumption is that the information relates to coursework, but that’s not always the case.
Teachers are required to keep highly personal student information confidential, but can you be sure they do?
Parents have the right to ask why the data is being collected, how it will be used, and how long it will be stored. Only until parents become involved In protecting their children’s personal identity data will the data become safer.