This post was originally written in May 2017 and posted at I am reposting this piece as I believe it is extremely important. It is more of an issue with the COVID pandemic and the amount of children learning at home.
Bradford – September 17, 2020

Many of you know, I am a proponent of online privacy. Recently I received an article about the implications of Educational Technology (EDTech) and the use of it and how it impacts privacy. While I don’t have children, I believe that their education is important. Part of that education is learning about privacy, what is appropriate for online, and that surveillance is not standard.

Much of this information is sourced from the report “EFF Releases Spying on Students Ed Tech Report” by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I found various things interesting, a child enrolled in Google Apps for Education (GAFE) much of the privacy decisions are taken away from the parent and given to the school system through the GAFE administrator. Under the agreement, Google makes with the school system many of the decisions are made for the student by the education department without checking with the parent. Some will say I am a cranky old person with this next phrase, “When I was in school, we needed a permission slip for a field trip. Now the school is deciding the online presence of their students – without any permission.”

The school system can create a Google account with personally identifiable information for a minor without the parental consent. If the parent (or guardian) asks for the information to be deleted, it is the decision of the school administrator whether or not it will be honored. Yes, the parents don’t get to chose. There are hundreds of pieces of education software or services in use. There are multiple terms of service and privacy to review for these services; I do not want to think about how long it would take to read these agreements. Some of these services are owned by Google and will share information with GAFE. Once again the majority of these services can be configured by the school system, not the parents.

The EFF has collected case studies to help illustrate the concerns and challenges. You can find them here

Right about now you are asking why I am talking about this topic. Many students are learning from home.. There are various software and technologies being used. Not many will think about how the privacy of students is considered. Asking a question such as, “Does this require signing up for an account?” or “Can one plug a USB storage device in or use a local network connection?” These simple questions can assist in the evaluation of the solutions.

Just as one would ask about security for a corporation or a government project, one should think about it for education and their home network. More often that it should occur, the technology provider is helping to educate the schools to understand the complex issues of using newer technology. Are you ready to ask questions?

Think about how you would feel if your child is being watched by Google without your permission. Not just teenagers, children just starting school.

Hat tip to EFF for their open source student privacy logo