More on Student Data Privacy

From Politico, a great number of stories.  The first being that the SXSWedu is going on this week: 

Education entrepreneurs from across the globe are flocking to Austin this week for SXSWedu. They’ll unveil the latest in education software and talk about how to innovate and disrupt their way toward better teaching and learning. And, of course, they’ll network. The conference is always known for showcasing new ed tech products, but this year, there’s another emerging theme: student data privacy.

There are absolutely a large number of student data privacy events as well as Special Ed (I didn't see any on ELL) and computer science.  

And look who has "lounges" at this event: McGraw-Hill, Microsoft, Pearson and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  (Apparently, there is also a "playground" and it actually looks like it's for kids. )

Speaking of student data privacy, there appears to be a number of companies/groups like Microsoft, who are trying to get out ahead of this issue.  Problem is, who are they protecting?  Many of us who are concerned about this issue want more parent voices, not tech company voices.

From the NY Times:

Over the last several months, more than 100 education technology companies and organizations have signed on to a voluntary student privacy pledge in which they have committed to a variety of data safeguards, including maintaining “a comprehensive security program that is reasonably designed to protect the security, privacy, confidentiality, and integrity of student personal information against risks.”

Of the approximately 60 companies that have signed the pledge and have websites with logins for students, teachers or parents, however, about one-fifth of them did not use basic encryption — called Secure Socket Layer or SSL — during the login process, according to an investigation this week by Tony Porterfield, a software engineer in Los Altos, Calif. 

The industry pledge, for instance, does not require specific security measures, such as encryption of logins for sites that collect personal details about students. The pledge also does not require companies to protect teacher or parent information collected by educational sites or apps.

More on student data privacy issues:

The entrepreneurial attention comes as Congress and the Obama administration are working on policy solutions. The Education Department last month released [] model guidelines to help districts protect student privacy while using online resources. And Reps. Jared Polis and Luke Messer, who spearheaded a student data privacy pledge that now has more than 120 signatories, are working to draft data privacy legislation first announced by the White House in January.

The Consortium for School Networking, Common Sense Education and other groups plan to push for common standards to safeguard student data. Microsoft, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and others will discuss whether it’s possible to encourage innovation while protecting students’ information. Federal and state officials will talk about the landscape of student privacy legislation and the emerging role of chief privacy officers on the state level. Other sessions will focus on privacy law, how to create a student data privacy policy and how to develop strategies for solving student privacy concerns. The full schedule is here:

From The Guardian, a sobering look at the "digital oligarchy":

The power of accumulated capital can still dominate international affairs, but a new form of power is also emerging, that of accumulated data through loyalty cards, text messages, credit card transactions, web browsing and social networking. Data is the new currency.

Where does this power come from? Cross-linking of different data sources can give deep insights into personality, health, commercial intent and risk. The aim now is to understand and characterise the population, down to the individual level.

Ownership of data is less clear. In the past acquiring data was expensive: it required questionnaires and manual collation of information. Today we leave digital footprints in our wake, and acquisition of personal data is relatively cheap.

Most of our historic problems seem to have come from humans wielding too much power, either individually or through institutions of government or business. Rather than worry about the rise of the machines, we should worry about creating a data-oligarchy: concentrating the power that comes with data in the hands of a few. 

We need a better understanding of how our data is being used already and how it is likely to be used in the future. There are opportunities and risks with the accumulation of data, just as there are for the accumulation of capital. 

However, one thing seems clear: we need to increase the power of the people. 
  • Banks pay interest; perhaps we should be paid directly for the use of our personal data. 
  • We need to be made aware of the value of our data and be given rights to control who accesses it. 
  • We need to form a data-democracy: data governance for the people, by the people and with the people’s consent.


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