Privacy Pitfalls as Education Apps Spread Haphazardly

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Reposted from the New York Times:

In the Fairfax County, Va., school district, technology experts have conducted their own security reviews of several hundred digital learning products, and failed a few of the most popular ones. In Houston, one of the largest districts in the country, administrators are testing their own rating system for digital learning products and developing a set of district-approved apps for teachers.

And in Raytown, Mo., Melissa Tebbenkamp, the school district’s director of instructional technology, vets every app that teachers want to try before allowing it to be used with students. Among other things, she checks to make sure those services do not exploit students’ email addresses to push products on them or share students’ details with third parties.

“We have a problem with sites targeting our teachers and not being responsible with our data,” Ms. Tebbenkamp said. For school technology directors around the country, she added, “it is a can of worms.” The new tools are being pushed by a rapidly expanding education technology industry. Some educators, entrepreneurs and philanthropists are particularly enthusiastic about adaptive learning products because they aim to tailor lessons to the individual abilities of each student.

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The New Way Facebook, Google, and Apple are Tracking You

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Reposted from Venture Beat:

The lifespan of the tracking cookie is about to expire. With the rapid emergence of mobile devices, the big three — Facebook, Google, and Apple — have turned to new and more potent methods for advertisers to keep track of you across multiple devices.

The impending death of the cookie can be traced to the launch of the iPhone in 2007. Apple decided to disable cookie functionality in iPhones because it believed advertisers would be able to garner too much personal information as they tracked you across websites, according to Medialets chief executive Eric Litman. Third-party cookies still work on Google’s Chrome browser and the Android OS, but they don’t function effectively on a large number of smartphones and tablets produced by other companies. Also, because cookies can only track you while you’re using a browser — not a mobile app — they have very limited relevance on mobile devices.

“Google, Apple, and Microsoft, as the dominant operating system vendors, could easily fix this problem of cross-device user identification for advertising in a consistent, privacy-friendly way if they wanted to,” Litman said. “IDFA and Google AdID are steps in the right direction, and hopefully Apple and Google will continue to improve them and and create a standard that everyone can support.” Here’s how each of the big mobile players is trying to replace the cookie with its own brand of tracking…

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“You can’t have an education technology revolution without strong privacy protections for students”

data privacy

Reposted from the New York Times:

“Last year, sales of education technology software for prekindergarten through 12th grade reached an estimated $7.9 billion, according to the Software and Information Industry Association.

As schools embrace these personalized learning tools, however, parents across the country have started challenging the industry’s information privacy and security practices.

“Different websites collect different kinds of information that could be aggregated to create a profile of a student, starting in elementary school,” said Tony Porterfield, a software engineer and father of two pre-teenage sons in Los Altos, Calif. “Can you imagine a college-admissions officer being able to access behavioral tracking information about a student, or how they did on a math app, all the way back to grade school?”

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Video

Here’s How We Take Back the Internet: A Recent Interview with Edward Snowden [VIDEO 35:17]

Appearing by telepresence robot, Edward Snowden speaks at TED2014 about surveillance and Internet freedom. The right to data privacy, he suggests, is not a partisan issue, but requires a fundamental rethink of the role of the internet in our lives — and the laws that protect it. “Your rights matter,” he say, “because you never know when you’re going to need them.”