EdData Privacy Update: 1/16/2015

EdData Privacy Update: 1/16/2015

As the New Year gets into full swing, media outlets from NPR to the Harvard Business Review are imagining what education trends 2015 will see. Education and technology experts and reporters imagine a lot of exciting and potentially transformative developments, including new opportunities for personalized learning, use of technology in the classroom, and college completion pathways. These predictions have real breadth, but a few common themes emerge—notably the smarter and more informed use of data to support students and the growing prioritization to ensure these data are safeguarded.

In a piece for NPR, Elana Zeide, a privacy research fellow at New York University’s Information Law Institute, predicts that questions about how education data should be collected and used (both by districts and service providers) could lead to “more examination, and perhaps increasing regulation, of how long information should be retained in a way that can be associated with an individual student.” A need for clear policies around data privacy and security was echoed by a recent panel of higher education leaders at the EDUCAUSE annual conference. As reported by the Center for Digital Education, the panel predicted that security policies for “mobile, cloud, and digital resources” would be one of the top 10 education technology issues of 2015. Similarly, the Harvard Business Review imagines a growing intersection between technology and privacy in 2015, with clear implications for education.

In a 2015 forecast for District Administration, Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN, articulates perfectly the challenge facing the field: “educators must comply with privacy laws and demonstrate aspirational practices.” In other words, districts, schools, and service providers must protect education data privacy and security with clear policies and practices, while also looking to the future of how education data could be used to benefit students and creating privacy guidelines and principles that can evolve with changing opportunities.

In his piece for the Huffington Post, Brad C. Phillips, president of the Institute for Evidence-Based Change sums it up: “Privacy concerns should never be taken lightly, but neither should the value good data used to improve and personalize student learning.” Education leaders recognize the amazing potential of data to support students and also the need to safeguard these data as a part of their use. As states, districts, schools, and service providers continue to create clear and comprehensive privacy and security policies, communicate transparently about their activities, and commit to meeting the challenges of a changing field, 2015 is shaping up to be a great year for education data and for students.