Who Should Shoulder the Student Data Privacy Burden?

According to the Data Quality Campaign, it's the responsibility of state and school district policymakers.

by / October 23, 2014

The burden of protecting student data privacy should fall on those who collect the data. Yet that burden is landing squarely on parents' shoulders as more of them opt their children out of school data collection, according to an October policy brief from the Data Quality Campaign.

While opting out seems like a good idea at first, it can have unintended consequences for families and schools, said Paige Kowalski, director of state policy and advocacy for the campaign.

For example, students are being left out of digital yearbooks and team photos, parents must try to figure out the risk of each type of data collection with little information, and schools have more of an administrative burden to separate opted-out students and provide alternatives for them, including other learning tools.

That's not to say that opting out is a bad thing, particularly when it comes to non-educational uses such as yearbooks and PTA fundraising. And the fact that state legislation and school district policies are offering opt-out options speaks to a need for more transparency and care around data use policies, governance and communication.

"What we're advocating for is for policymakers at all levels -- the school district level, the state level --to be thoughtful about how they're going to ensure the privacy and security of the data they collect," Kowalski said. 

The brief offers four recommendations for policymakers to consider:

  1. Prioritize communications and transparency
  2. Establish governance
  3. Review and update privacy and security policies and practices
  4. Build state and local capacity to safeguard data

Parents want their children to use technology and experience personalized learning, Kowalski said, but that requires data, and it's important for school districts to be transparent about how they're using that data and protecting their children.  

"We're in an era where parents haven't been told what information is being collected and how it's being used, so that protective instinct comes in, and you want to pull your child[ren] back and protect them," Kowalski said. "We need to do a better job of communicating with parents."

This story was originally published by the Center for Digital Education.

Tanya Roscorla Former Managing Editor, CDE

Tanya Roscorla covered ed tech from 2009-2017.

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