Leonie Haimson and Rachael Stickland of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy created a toolkit for parents to defend against the invasion of children’s privacy by commercial and governmental interests. The toolkit was devised in collaboration with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
Haimson and Stickland explain why they developed the free toolkit and why parents should use it.
“Despite a clear desire among many parents to protect their children’s sensitive data, few resources exist to help them navigate the confusing patchwork of laws and regulations that govern student privacy. Most guidance is aimed at schools and districts, not parents, and what has been produced is often filled with legal and technical jargon. To compound the problem, most widely available student privacy resources are often written by organizations funded or supported by the growing ed-tech industry and who advocate for increased data sharing rather than reducing it.
“In fact, millions of student data points are currently soaked up every day by schools or their vendors and shared with third parties, including for-profit companies, government agencies, and researchers, without parental knowledge, and with few or uncertain security protections. The personal data collected from children may include students’ names, email addresses, grades, test scores, disability status and health records, suspension and discipline data, country of birth, family background, and more. Other digital data collected may include internet search history, videos watched, survey questions, lunch items purchased, heart rate and other biometric information measured during gym class, and even classroom behavior, such as being off-task or speaking out of turn.
“This information, whether collected by schools directly or by contractors supplying online learning platforms, classroom applications and websites, are often merged together and analyzed via algorithms to profile a student’s skills, strengths, abilities and interests, and to predict future outcomes. How this sensitive data may be used, with whom it can be shared, and how it can be protected are questions on many parents’ minds. Finding answers can be hard; schools often find themselves caught in the middle.”
They developed the parent toolkit to help parents protect their children.
“Our toolkit, available on the PCSP [Parent Coalition for Student Privacy] website, offers clear guidance about what student privacy rights exist under federal laws and what steps parents can take to ensure these laws are enforced, suggests questions they can ask to learn more about their schools’ data policies, and recommends best practices that parents can urge their school and district officials adopt, all with the goal of protecting and securing this data. We also suggest tips that parents can use at home and sample opt out forms to minimize the risk that their children’s privacy will be breached or abused.”
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