Student Data Privacy
Earlier this month, Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General of California, outlined a new set of “best practices” for ed tech providers to follow to protect student privacy in their products and services. The key best practices are: “1) minimizing data collection and retention to include only the student information necessary; 2) keeping the use of data strictly educational; 3) contractually requiring service providers who receive student information not to disclose it or sell it; 4) instituting policies that enable parents and legal guardians to fully understand the student data collected and maintained; 5) implementing reasonable security measures to protect data; and 6) ensuring transparency by providing meaningful privacy policies.” The Attorney General’s full report, Ready for School: Recommendations for the Ed Tech Industry to Protect the Privacy of Student Data, draws on research, recommendations, and other contributions by key stakeholders in the student privacy space-- including the Data & Society Research Institute, the Privacy Technical Assistance Center at the U.S. Department of Education, and many others-- to explore both the “potential for significant benefits” as well as the “risks and challenges” posed by ed tech adoption.
Data & Equity
Election and Equity
The Southern Poverty Law Center reports over 200 incidents of harassment and intimidation across the country since the election. These incidents raise particular concerns about safety for students as a number of hateful incidents have occurred in K-12 and college campuses. Increased attention to these incidences has revealed inefficient mechanisms for tracking hate crimes in the U.S. The Young Adult Library Services Association is developing tools and resources for supporting youth safety and improving respectful engagement. Members of Trump’s presidential transition team have indicated he may reduce the role of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in state and local policies. This could potentially impact action on school-discipline disparities and instances of discrimination in schools, transgender students’ rights, and more. Effort needs to be made to accurately and reliably track occurrences of hate-based interactions to understand how our political climate and other factors have impacted the number of hate crimes in the U.S.
Happenings: This Edweek article explores allegations that founders and board members of online charter schools misuse funds and provide inadequate education for their students. A new report reveals that Black teachers feel that they have reduced opportunities to advance in their careers. This Schott Foundation report shows that the school to prison pipeline may start in preschool, as evidenced by findings that early education staff exhibit bias against Black children. Facebook announced changes to its “ethnic affinity” advertising policy that will no longer allow advertisers to exclude specific racial and ethnic groups when placing ads for housing, credit, or employment. A press release by Facebook claims that they will develop an automated system that will combat discrimination in advertising.
Digital LiteracyInformation Quality & Accuracy in Digital Political Dialogue
Google and Facebook are engaged in some soul-searching in the face of “mounting criticism over how fake news on their sites may have influenced the presidential election’s outcome” in the United States. Google’s response includes the announcement that “it would ban websites that peddle fake news from using its online advertising service.” Facebook’s response includes a change to “the language in its Facebook Audience Network policy, which already says it will not display ads in sites that show misleading or illegal content, to include fake news sites.” Some commentators are calling on Facebook to take additional steps to ensure information quality and accuracy, such as new resources for fact-checking posts. Professor Zeynep Tufekci, a faculty affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, argues in The New York Times that Facebook should engage in a more comprehensive reexamination of its approach to information quality and accuracy. “Facebook may want to claim that it is remaining neutral,” says Prof. Tufekci, “but that is a false and dangerous stance. The company’s business model, algorithms and policies entrench echo chambers and fuel the spread of misinformation.” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said that “[o]verall, I am proud of our role giving people a voice in this election. We helped more than 2 million people register to vote, and based on our estimates we got a similar number of people to vote who might have stayed home otherwise.”
Happenings: The on-going Media Literacy Week pledge asks participants to commit to thinking critically about the media they consume and create; pledge sign-up is still available here. If you’re thinking about how to engage with kids and teens on information quality issues, check out the resources on the Digital Literacy Resource Platform from the Youth and Media team at the Berkman Klein Center. The U.S. Department of Education has kicked off “the EdSim Challenge, a $680,000 competition to design the next-generation of educational simulations that strengthen career and technical skills.” Sandra Cortesi, Director of Youth and Media at the Berkman Klein Center, delivered a speech on youth and online news at Mobile Media Day. A beta-version of a new tool, Ed Tech RCE Coach, that evaluates results from ed tech products & services is now available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined that “[i]t is now just as likely for middle school students to die from suicide as from traffic accidents,” a statistic that is being understood as “an extreme data point in an accumulating body of evidence that young adolescents are suffering from a range of health problems associated with the country’s rapidly changing culture.” Education Week looks at how “educators [are] scrambling to figure out how to teach classic literature [such as Shakespeare] in the midst of a digital revolution.”