Educational technology poses risks to student privacy

A 2015 study by The Learning Curve found that although 71% of parents believe technology has improved their child's education, 79% were worried about the privacy and security of their child's data, and 75% were worried that advertisers had access to that data. At issue is the privacy and security threats posed by the amount of data collected by the growing education technology ("ed-tech") industry on the basis that it's necessary in order to deliver personalised learning. Mathematician and author Cathy O'Neil points out the dangers of assessments made about children as young as seven that may follow them for the rest of their lives.

The dangers became particularly clear when the giant educational services company Pearson announced it would sell its PowerSchool subsidiary, which tracks student performance, to the privacy equity firm Vista Equity Partners, which would be its third owner. Besides the data collected by ed-tech companies, privacy advocates have expressed concerns about the lack of funding that pushes teachers to use free online resources that often also collect student data. A balance needs to be found between privacy and security concerns and the benefits that can flow from using student data in research. However, data alone cannot solve persistent issues such as inequality and access.

Writer: Farai Chideya
Publication: The Intercept