Privacy Pitfalls as Education Apps Spread Haphazardly

Those apps that we download, get our students to sign up for and use – how much do we know about their security? About how they use the student data?The article below highlights an issue  we have not thought about before as we try to keep up with the massive potential as well as challenges that integrating technology in a mindful way poses.

When reading about the big school boards in the U.S. (who actually have someone called the Chief Technology Officer for the districts) and how they are trying to get a handle on teachers using un-vetted apps in the classroom (as the app companies are marketing directly to the teachers, often offering their product for free at the beginning), it occurs to me that the challenge will be how to foster an atmosphere of open, spontaneous exploration while still keeping student privacy and safety in the foreground. I can see how a top-heavy vetting process could get cumbersome and be a deterrent for teachers who are already reticent to use the technology.

Or perhaps we could demand the onus of privacy and safety be put squarely on the educational software companies- perhaps they cannot call themselves an educational app without meeting certain criteria in the realm of data security?

Any ideas? This will definitely go on the agenda of our next IT meeting.

Apps and other software can put powerful teaching tools at teachers’ fingertips, but concerns abound over data security, effectiveness and marketing.


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This Is How Google Recommends You Stay Safe Online | Edudemic

This is a handy dandy chart from Google about how to stay safe online. However, many of these points require some mediation with students. I am thinking of using it as a guideline for some of my Digital Citizenship workshops….

The Internet can be a scary place. There are people on the web who are looking to take advantage of you for their own personal gain. There. I said it. These people are likely looking to confuse or convince you that they are someone you should be sharing important information with. In an effort to …


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You Are Not a Digital Native: Privacy in the Age of the Internet |

I wanted to share this article by Cory Doctorow as I think it makes some extremely salient points when talking about kids and privacy. He also quotes Danah Boyd’s new book entitled It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked teens, a book that is on my shelf, waiting patiently for me to get to it.

But here are some of the big points Doctorow makes that A) I haven’t heard before and B) now seem so obvious I can’t believe I didn’t think about it  in that way before:

  • Just because kids’ make mistakes (which BTdubs, is how we all learn) with their privacy online, doesn’t mean they don’t care about it.
  • That because kids’ make mistakes with their privacy, the companies take that to mean that they don’t care about it, which means they can play fast and loose with their data.
  • Actually, kids care a lot about their privacy. Just ask any parent who wants to know what they did at their friend’s house last night. You can’t get more cryptic than the ubiquitous, “stuff.”

Ande here’s a quote just to whet your appetite:

 ” Kids intuitively know what privacy is worth, but being kids, they get some of the details wrong. It takes a long time to learn how to do privacy well, because there’s a big gap between giving up your privacy and getting bitten in the butt by that disclosure. It’s like obesity, or smoking—anything where the action and consequences are widely separated is going to be something that people have a hard time learning about. If every forkful of cheesecake immediately turned into a roll of fat, it would be a lot easier to figure out how much cheesecake was too much.


So kids spend a lot of time thinking about being private from parents, teachers and bullies, but totally overestimate how private they’ll be from future employers, their government, and police. And alas, by the time they figure it out, it’s too late.” Cory Doctorow


He goes on to mention ways kids are guarding their privacy and ways in which we too, us curmudgeonly digital immigrants, can also protect our privacy.

In my opinion, this is a must read.

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Cory Doctorow discusses the importance of Internet privacy, and how companies profit from our mistakes.

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Google must respect ‘right to be forgotten’

Random thought: This kind of legislation is very interesting as it indicates a subtle shift in the conversation about who’s responsibility it is to protect people’s personal information and reputations.

It is common knowledge (I hope) that nothing comes for free. Services like Google and Facebook offer their services in exchange for you freely giving over your data. At least that is the way it has been. Is this right? Is there enough transparency? What is the agency of the individual to be able to control what people see and what they don’t see?

There is also the problem that there might be information online that we do not control (such as the Spanish man who brought the original suit discussed in the article below) – articles, fake profiles, etc. Who’s responsibility is it to take down this information? Is it a breech of freedom of expression or a “right to be forgotten”?

Big questions as the norms of privacy stretch and distort into…what? I guess we will see.

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Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo can be made to remove irrelevant or excessive personal information from search engine results, Europe’s top court ruled on Tuesday.

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Five Facebook problems you need to fix right now – The Kim Komando Show

I came across this article this morning and there was a lot I didn’t know. I went directly to my Facebook account and changed some of my settings. Whether you are a staff, parent or both, there are some useful tips here. Check it out!

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Using Facebook incorrectly can expose your information. Here are some settings you need to change now….

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Students Sue Google for Monitoring Their Emails

Ever write an email about wanting chocolate and have an ad for Dairy milk appear above your emails?

Check out this very interesting case, especially for our school which also uses Google’s Apps for Education

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A group of students are suing Google alleging that Gmail’s scanning of their emails violates their privacy.

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Digital Citizenship: Metadata Made Simple

As I have mentioned several times in the last couple of weeks, I am in the process of collecting resources in order to build a digital citizenship program for our school. The idea  is to start with the basics: netiquette, basic safety online, etc. Then move on to bigger topics such as cyberbullying, online identity, positive self- branding and, by grade eleven start tackling the bigger issues surrounding privacy. Below is an amazing video by the Guardian explaining what governments do with the data they collect.


I came across it while reading the article below from the aside blog. The author gives some suggestions about how these issues can be presented to students. One of the means they mention is using popular TV shows. This resonated with me, as I have just started watching Homeland with my daughters. Despite some graphic content and questionable take on Islam (which in itself is another talking point) it is a great way to question the ethics of surveillance and all the surrounding issues of privacy. We end up having some interesting discussions at the dinner table…

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Innovative design crosses over all aspects of education. The American Society for Innovation Design in Education, or ASIDE, seeks to infuse curriculum with new approaches to teaching and thinking.

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Privacy Commissioner Launches Privacy Mobile Application

Via Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada 

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) today launched myPRIVACYapp, a mobile application designed to educate users on how to better protect personal information on their mobile devices.

Mobile devices such as smart phones, laptops and tablets have rapidly become part of daily life. And while these tools offer tremendous convenience and keep us connected, they can hold massive amounts of our personal information.

The myPRIVACYapp is free and available for download on Apple, Android and Blackberry devices.

This is a nice effort on the part of the privacy commissioner to address the need for education when it comes to privacy and our mobile devices. It is extremely basic though as the following screenshots will show:

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Notye: the app is made for mobile phones so when you are in the app store, make sure you are looking in the iphone section not the iPad section- it won’t show up if you do.

Still, in terms of educating our young ones, this would be an excellent app to use in terms of getting them to take some basic, practical steps in thinking about their privacy.

Oh and they also sent me a graphic novel about privacy- come check it out! And they have a video which pretty much sums up what we have been talking about in terms of mindful use of technology:

All this Privacy commissioner stuff is making me think it is time to revisit this issue with our students. Although I know they’ve heard it before (I know because I told them) I think it is like telling your kids they need to clean their room- repetition is key to success…