The Ethics of Student Privacy: Building Trust for Ed Tech

Organization: Future of Privacy Forum
Author: Jules Polonetsky and Omer Tene
Published: July 1, 2014

This article analyzes the opportunities and risks of data driven education technologies (ed tech). It discusses the deployment of data technologies by education institutions to enhance student performance, evaluate teachers,
improve education techniques, customize programs, devise financial assistance plans, and better leverage scarce resources to assess and optimize education results. Critics fear ed tech could introduce new risks of privacy infringements, narrowcasting and discrimination, fueling the stratification of society by channeling “winners” to a “Harvard track” and “losers” to a “bluer collar” track; and overly limit the right to fail, struggle and learn through experimentation. The article argues that together with teachers, parents and students, schools and vendors must establish a trust framework to facilitate the adoption of data driven ed tech. Enhanced transparency around institutions’ data use philosophy and ethical guidelines, and novel methods of data “featurization,” will achieve far more than formalistic notices and contractual legalese.