News network CNN In the Covid-19 epidemic, a new research discovered that millions of students who used educational applications and websites throughout the outbreak had their personal data and online behavior recorded and shared with third-party advertising technology businesses without their knowledge.
After a year-long research, Human Rights Watch published its findings this week on the educational services and online learning platforms that students all around the world used when school systems began utilizing distance education.
It was determined that nearly 90 percent (146 of the 164) of the goods assessed by Human Rights Watch in 49 countries “risked or infringed” on children’s privacy, according to the organization. Personal data, such as an individual’s identify, location, online activity and conduct, and information about their friends and family members, was collected in these activities without the students’ or parents’ consent.
According to Human Rights Watch’s Hye Jung Han, “Children, parents and instructors were mostly kept in the dark,” CNN Business reports. “If they had realized what was going on, they would have been powerless to do anything else. These items were either used and paid for in exchange for their privacy, or students were recorded absent and dropped out of school in Covid-19.”
“The vast majority” of those apps and websites that Human Rights Watch looked at were transferring personal data on kids to Google and Facebook, Han added.
CNN Business spoke to a Meta spokesman who said Facebook’s parent firm has standards in place around the sharing of children’s data and prohibitions on advertising to minors. Customers and developers must adhere to data and privacy regulations, according to a Google spokeswoman, and any personalized or marketing ads intended at underage accounts are prohibited. As the representative put it, “We are looking into the particular claims in the report and will take appropriate action if we find policy violations.”
More than a dozen international media sites, including The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, and El Mundo, received the information.
According to Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project and fellow at the NYU School of Law, the findings contribute to growing worries about data collecting among young people. There has been a lot of attention recently from lawmakers on the impact of technology platforms on teenagers.
It was well-known that technology was being abused and was putting children at risk; nonetheless, this report is critical because it illustrates the extent of harm and how the same error is being made by educators and governments around the world, he added.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a US law, has measures in place to protect students’ educational information from invasive online surveillance under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Schools and tech companies, on the other hand, are using loopholes in the regulations that are designed to prevent advertisers from tracking children and minors online, according to Cahn. There are systems in place that, by exploiting flaws, can turn kids into some of the world’s most monitored citizens.
It was “a regulatory failure, pure and simple,” said John Davisson, head of litigation and senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The Federal Trade Commission recently warned edtech suppliers about their responsibility to protect children’s privacy, which he says has given him hope.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) aims to crack down on corporations that illegally monitor children while they are engaged in online education. According to Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, “students must be free to conduct their homework without being monitored by firms attempting to harvest their data in order to pad their bottom line”. In the digital classroom, parents shouldn’t have to choose between protecting their children’s privacy and allowing them to participate.
Educators and educational technology providers have a responsibility to be totally honest about what they’re possibly doing with data, have detailed control over how it is used, and demonstrate why the data is needed at all, according to Gartner analyst Bart Willemsen.
Data must serve a function, but it cannot be used for advertising, he said. We should not include it in our digital school life if it isn’t something that we do in our physical classrooms.
He also warned that the acquisition of this data could have long-term ramifications for the digital footprints of their children. It’s up to the parents to play a part, he said. The strongest action they can take in a circumstance like this, though, is to make their voice heard.