Are Education Technology Companies Doing Enough to Secure Learner Privacy?

Learners are using more tech than ever before, but are we putting them at risk? Education technology companies have access to a lot of sensitive info about learners. School districts might not even know how the companies are using this data for their own commercial interests. Parents and educators are responsible for protecting their kids’ data until they become old enough to make those decisions for themselves. There is very little to hold education technology companies accountable to these standards without national guidelines in place. 

Privacy Isn’t a Priority 

One of the many pressing issues for concerned parents and educators is that privacy is not a concern for education technology companies. In a recent research study by Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College, exploratory findings uncovered that data privacy wasn’t even on the radar for education technology companies. These companies were focused on gaining new customers and developing better products with no regard to data privacy. 

Protecting data might be more concerning if education technology companies had the legal expertise to adopt better practices. Startups are very lean and can’t afford to keep a lawyer on staff. This sets them up for failure because most companies don’t understand the ins and outs of federal privacy laws, state learner privacy laws, and legal obligations such as disclosure. Privacy isn’t a huge concern to them because they don’t realize how big of a deal it truly is. 

School Districts Must Be Held Accountable 

School districts considering a particular education technology product must be more aware of what they are purchasing. Because education technology is mostly concerned with customer acquisition, they would be forced to consider data privacy practices if school districts demanded it. We must rally for more than the minimum in data protection for minor kids. When sales begin to drop due to this issue, education technology companies will notice and apply best practices. 

This can’t be just a one-off occurrence where districts advocate for better data privacy measures. education technology companies should continuously stay on top of changing laws. School districts must ask hard questions on this topic every time a review of their current tech comes up. If necessary, schools need to hire their legal advisor or consultant to ensure that the program is up to current laws. 

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that many education technology companies are falling painfully short of adhering to responsible data privacy practices. Although the industry tries to figure out the best practices, our learners and their info are at risk. School districts must hold companies accountable and demand better practices before purchasing their services. Then we will start to see effective change take place.

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