Students, Data, and Blurred Lines

Tracy Mitrano, Cornell University,  Thursday, April 30, 2015

As technology transforms the classroom, Internet companies and government leaders have a vital role to play in assuring that the privacy and integrity of the data that existed in the physical world for youth and students remains consistent in the digital era.

Unhappy Anniversary, Google

Tracy Mitrano, Inside Higher Ed,  Thursday, April 30, 2015

In a year of tremendous growth, we can celebrate the innovations of Google along with advancements in education technology. In the meantime, with one year under Google’s belt since announcing that it would no longer scan student data for advertising purposes, unanswered questions remain at best, deception at worst – and until these questions are addressed, educational institutions have reason to proceed with caution.

U.S. Student Digital Data Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015 Introduced

Bradley Shear by Bradley Shear, Law Office of Bradley S. Shear
Thursday, April 30, 2015

Earlier this year, I advocated for my home state of Maryland to enact a similar student privacy bill which was also modeled after California's SB 1177. I was very troubled to witness Facebook and Google (here is a link to the hearing where you will see that the representatives of these companies were actively trying to thwart passage of robust student privacy protections) advocate for amendments to gut the bill's privacy protections for our children. My hope is that Facebook, Google, etc... realize that their continued refusal to accept appropriate limits on student data collection, processing, and usage will continue to make parents suspicious about their motives for providing educational technology tools. These companies are two of the largest advertising entities in the world and their actions so far clearly demonstrate that they want access to personal student data for marketing purposes.

Bill to protect student privacy introduced in Congress

Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,  Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Two members of Congress today introduced legislation intended to keep the burgeoning education technology industry from selling data on students, or using it to steer targeted advertising. Luke Messer, R-Indiana, and Jared Polis, D-Colorado, said the proposed Student Data Privacy and Parental Rights Act would prevent misuse of personal information submitted by students and parents to educational websites and apps, while allowing innovation in K-12 classrooms to flourish.

EU and Google

Tracy Mitrano, Inside Higher Ed,  Thursday, April 16, 2015

Because this action will likely stretch out for a long time, this blog post is not intended to be definitive on the subject but an introduction. At first blush, there are three main reasons why the E.U. antitrust action against Google is significant to U.S. higher education.

27018 and Higher Education

Tracy Mitrano, Inside Higher Ed,  Monday, April 13, 2015

While many readers may not be familiar with the International Standards Organization, the rigorous formal standards established by this UN-sponsored body form the backbone of data security best practices in large organizations everywhere. Collectively the standards are known as the ISO 27000 family. American colleges and universities in particular, which are busily outsourcing many key online services to outside cloud providers, would do well to pay close attention to the newest member of this family, ISO 27018, which sets out best practices for personally identifiable information (PII) held in the cloud. ISO 27018 is the first international standard for privacy practices. Published in July 2014, the standard warrants the full attention of higher educational institutions as they consider the procurement of cloud services.

FTC to review complaint that YouTube Kids over-advertises to children

Cecilia Kang, The Washington Post,  Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday said it will review complaints by consumer groups that YouTube Kids is a hyper-commercial app with junk food and toy ads flooding the video service. Several consumer advocacy groups filed a complaint with the commission saying YouTube's free app that launched in February contains too many ads that young children can't distinguish from entertainment. On television, federal rules keep advertising to a minimum on children's programs but on the app and others like it, the groups say those rules are disregarded.

Law, Policy and IT: Privacy Shorts

Tracy Mitrano, Inside Higher Ed,  Monday, March 30, 2015

Google watchers have had a lot to look at lately. First, the Wall Street Journal reported that Federal Trade Commission staff in 2012 issued a report that found “Google Inc. used anticompetitive tactics and abused its monopoly power in ways that harmed Internet users and competitors.” To quote the report, according to the WSJ, Google’s “conduct has resulted — and will result — in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.” The Commissioners, under the previous commissioner, Jon Leibowitz, nonetheless voted not to investigate, at least as a result of a countervailing report from the economics bureau that advocated against an investigation. This report includes any number of specific issues: taking content from other sites to augment their own; “placing restrictions on websites that syndicate its search results from also working with rivals,” and “by restricting advertisers’ ability to use data garnered from Google ad campaigns in advertising run on rival platforms.” .

Federal Student-Data-Privacy Bill Delayed Following Criticism

Benjamin Herold, Education Week,  Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Introduction of a bill intended to establish a new level of federal involvement in the protection of K-12 students' privacy has been delayed following criticism that lawmakers fell well short of creating the strong national law for which advocates hoped. On Monday, U.S. Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Luke Messer, R-Ind., were poised to introduce the "Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act," developed in close consultation with the White House. But after critical press reports and concern from privacy advocates about the scope and rigor of a near-final draft of the bill, the lawmakers decided to hold off. A revised version of the proposed legislation is now expected to be made public later this week.

Boston parents overwhelmingly agree that schools should demand restrictions on data mining from Internet companies

SafeGov,  Monday, March 23, 2015

A survey of parents with school-age children in Boston shows parents see many benefits from in-school internet access, with more than 80 percent stating that in-school internet access helps students develop the necessary skills to gain employment and participate in the global economy. However, a majority of parents are unaware that technology companies may be tracking their children’s internet use at school. This demonstrates the importance of and need for stronger protections to prevent student data mining and online tracking in Boston schools. The findings are based on a survey conducted for SafeGov.org aimed at understanding Boston parents’ views on technology in the classroom and their awareness of student data mining.