On April 13, 2017, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published Spying on Students, a report detailing its investigation into school-issued devices and student privacy. EFF found that parents were overwhelmingly not informed about what educational technology (Ed Tech) their students were using. As a result, students and/or parents were the ones burdened with investigating what Ed Tech was used, what privacy policies were governed, and what privacy implications they may carry. Not surprisingly, parents were particularly concerned with what personally identifiable information was being collected and whether that information would be shared or sold.
EFF also analyzed the privacy policies of every Ed Tech app, software, programs or services identified by its survey recipients. Of the 152 Ed Tech services reported, only 118 had privacy policies available online. Few policies addressed deletion of data after periods of inactivity. Less than a third stated that the vendor used encryption or mentioned de-identification or aggregation of user data.
The report also concluded that parents and students had difficulty opting out of this Ed Tech. Forty percent of parents who responded to the survey did not know whether it was possible to opt-out. Thirty percent were sure that they could not opt-out.
It was also apparent to EFF researchers that parents and students were not satisfied with privacy policies and legislation. They wanted to know what was actually happening to their student data. Many survey respondents did not think that teacher training was sufficient to implement adequate privacy protections. Many students also lacked education on privacy issues. EFF recommended that Ed Tech companies and schools should work together to inform students about their online data trails, privacy expectations and common-sense measures for protecting their privacy.
EFF concluded that student privacy was not being adequately addressed by schools or Ed Tech vendors. In order to make meaningful improvements, EFF advised that changes in state and federal law, school and district priorities, and Ed Tech company policies and practices were necessary.