Privacy and cloud computing in schools

December 17, 2013 |

The Fordham Law School has published a very interesting article titled Privacy and Cloud Computing in Public Schools.  It is found here.

The key findings are:

  • 95% of districts rely on cloud services for a diverse range of functions including data mining related to student performance, support for classroom activities, student guidance, data hosting, as well as special services such as cafeteria payments and transportation planning.
  • Cloud services are poorly understood, non-transparent, and weakly governed: only 25% of districts inform parents of their use of cloud services,20% of districts fail to have policies governing the use of online services, and a sizeable plurality of districts have rampant gaps in their contract documentation, including missing privacy policies.
  • Districts frequently surrender control of student information when using cloud services: fewer than 25% of the agreements specify the purpose for disclosures of student information, fewer than 7% of the contracts restrict the sale or marketing of student information by vendors, and many agreements allow vendors to change the terms without notice. FERPA, however, generally requires districts to have direct control of student information when disclosed to third-party service providers.
  • An overwhelming majority of cloud service contracts do not address parental notice, consent, or access to student information. Some services even require parents to activate accounts and, in the process, consent to privacy policies that may contradict those in the district’s agreement with the vendor.FERPA, PPRA and COPPA, however, contain requirements related to parental notice, consent, and access to student information.
  • School district cloud service agreements generally do not provide for data security andeven allow vendors to retain student information in perpetuity with alarming frequency. Yet, basic norms of information privacy require data security.

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