As adults, we all kind of have at least a vague peripheral sense that the devices and software we use are probably up to some kind of shenanigans with our personal data. Kids, however, are probably not thinking as closely about what they tell the devices they use, and what data those devices then share — especially if they’re school-owned tools. And yet, a new report finds, some of the learning technology schoolchildren are required to use every day are some of the worst when it comes to explaining and protecting users’ privacy.
The EFF’s new “Spying on Students” report [PDF] pulls together two years’ worth of research and data trying to find out whether educational technology (ed tech) companies are protecting students’ privacy. The answer is, unfortunately, largely not.
One third of all K-12 students are using school-issued ed tech devices, the EFF finds. About half are Chromebooks, and more than 30 million total students, teachers, and administrators are using Google’s education suite of software. And parents are being largely left in the dark.
The EFF surveyed parents to see if software was transparent about how it handled student privacy — and, in fact, if schools were being transparent with how they used software. In both cases, the answer was no.
It is far more safe to buy the device which the school is using, and put appropriate security software on it yourself, because you have not a clue what the computer is seeing/hearing/transmitting.