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Edtech Advocacy &
Policy Summit

Top 10 Ways To Tell If Your EdTech App Cares About Privacy

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Panel

Tuesday, December 1, 1:00–1:45 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)

Jill Bronfman  
Ben Cogswell  
Nancy Nelson  

Want to find out if your favorite EdTech app is taking care of student and teacher privacy? Come see Common Sense Privacy’s hot list, tips, and graphic representations of key findings of privacy and security practices of 150 popular EdTech products from our published State of EdTech Privacy Report.

Audience: Chief technology officers/superintendents/school board members, Library media specialists
Skill level: Intermediate
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Topic: Online tools, apps & resources
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Manage the use of technology and student learning strategies in digital platforms, virtual environments, hands-on makerspaces or in the field.
  • Model and promote management of personal data and digital identity and protect student data privacy.
  • Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.
Additional detail: Session recorded for video-on-demand

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

This session will display visual representations of key findings from our published State of EdTech Privacy Report with pie-charts and graphs that illustrate better, worse, and unclear privacy and security practices of 100 popular EdTech applications and services that were evaluated in the following areas: encryption, effective policy dates, selling data, third-party marketing, traditional advertising, behavioral advertising, ad tracking, third-party tracking, profiling, and the onward transfer of data to third parties.


“Top 10 Ways To Tell If Your EdTech App Cares About Your Privacy”

Your EdTech App, let’s call him “Eddie,” cares about your privacy if he posts a privacy policy on his webpage or links to it on his download page in the app store. If he doesn’t start by telling you how much he cares about privacy straight away, just keep walking.
Eddie’s webpage uses encryption to keep private data private, right? Look for “https” in the URL box. No “S”? Not so secure, your data is.
How does Eddie look after student information? Does he even check whether the users are of age? Look at his policy for collecting, storing, sharing, or even selling information for children under 13, 16, and/or 18. If he’s selling all the information, or even just collecting too much, Eddie is not your friend.
Speaking of which, what kind of personal information does Eddie want to know, exactly? Is it just a quick login name and password to use the app, or does Eddie seem to want a whole host of extra information? What is my favorite color? Why do you need to know that, Eddie?
Let’s see what happens to your data after Eddie is done with it, shall we? Does he delete it and move on, or does he keep it for all eternity, or worse, sell it to the highest bidder?
Those third parties, hmm, who is Eddie keeping company with at all hours? Eddie should probably tell you who he does business with, especially if it involves using your online behavior to advertise to you either in the app or on the web. And he should let you know how to read the other parties’ privacy policies, too, if you really want to know.
Where is Eddie right now? Is he gossiping around the Internet with student information, or does he stay quietly in his app space and only use your data to work on the app? If Eddie connects with social media, he might be grabbing more of your personal information from those services, and may be sharing some of the data he collected from you right back to them.
Eddie may be collecting your personal data and showing it to the world, or at least to other people who are logged into the app. What’s fair game for public display, and what does Eddie keep to himself?
I hope Eddie would tell you if he lost your information, or if someone hacked into his system and leaked it. He should promise to tell you if there’s a data breach.
Last but not least, Eddie should either monitor communications or allow trusted adults like teachers to monitor communications between students. We all need to watch out for kids’ safety, and we hope Eddie is on our side and wants to help.
Of course, this is just a quick look at what EdTech apps might be doing with your personal information. Please join us on the Common Sense Privacy website, and look up your “Eddie” to see how he’s doing caring for your privacy.

Supporting research

The Common Sense Privacy Program has created a new tool to evaluate edtech privacy and security. There are three components: Privacy Evaluations, an Information Security Primer, and a set of Privacy Questions. This framework can analyze and quantify privacy policies so that parents and teachers can make smart and informed choices about the learning tools they use with their children and students and schools and districts can evaluate and choose the technology used in K-12 classrooms. This session will engage participants in a discussion of the key findings from our 2019 State of Edtech Privacy report that represent the culmination of our research over the past four years and evaluation of hundreds of education technology-related applications and services. Our overall findings are illustrative of current trends in the edtech industry including widespread lack of transparency and inconsistent privacy and security practices.

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Jill Bronfman, Common Sense Media
Ben Cogswell, Bardin Elementary School
Nancy Nelson, Chief Leschi Schools

Nancy is the CTE and Instructional Technology Administrator for Chief Leschi Schools in Puyallup, WA.

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