FBI Warning on Ed Tech

A great deal of attention has been given to the issue of screen time and its impact on your children. But what’s often overlooked in these discussions is the risk to children posed by the increasing use of technology and data collection in schools. This week, the FBI addressed that issue in a public-service announcement from their Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The announcement stated that “The widespread collection of sensitive information by ed tech could present unique exploitation opportunities for criminals. Malicious use of this sensitive data could result in social engineering, bullying, tracking, identity theft, or other means for targeting children.”

In a post on Edweek’s Digital Education blog, Benjamin Herold added these details:

The new announcement cites a wide range of sensitive information collected in schools, including personally identifiable information; biometric data; students’ web-browsing histories, IP addresses, and geolocation; behavioral, disciplinary, and medical information; and academic and classroom data.

What Parents Can Do

School use of technology and the potential for abuse has long been on the radar for privacy advocates. They are quick to point out that while other sectors are able to keep up with security improvements, the education community is often handcuffed in their efforts to maintain adequate security by budget constraints.

But that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless. In the PSA the FBI included the following recommendations for parents:

  • Research existing student and child privacy protections of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and state laws as they apply to ed-tech services.
  • Discuss with local districts what and how educational technologies and programs are used in their schools.
  • Conduct research on parent coalition and information-sharing organizations which are available online for those looking for support and additional resources.

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