States Consider Student Privacy in Cloud Storage Space

Several states are questioning the moral and ethical implications of student privacy on school-run cloud storage devices. Many insist that student information such devices is not safe and can easily be sold to third-party companies for commercial purposes.

In Jessica Hall’s report from The Portland Press Herald,  Sen. Roger Katz (Rep.) is working to pass bill LD 1780, which would make it illegal for businesses that sell Internet-based tools to Maine schools to use or sell student information for financial gain.  Katz insists that while this breach in privacy has not happened yet, this bill is a way to keep it from happening in the future.

Cloud computing is defined as “a network of remote servers store, manage and process data rather than the information being stored on a local server or personal computer.” The bill would protect names of both students and their parents, students’ email address and other personal information.

However, some educational experts do not believe that the bill goes far enough and want to add further measures to broaden the scale of Katz’s privacy bill.

“We believe this bill is a starting place for an important, overdue conversation about how Maine can better protect the data of our students, but that as written, it may be too narrowly focused on productivity applications that provide document editing and email,” said Samantha Warren, director of communications for the Maine Department of Education. “We believe this proposal needs to be broadened to also include the cloud-based learning tools that many Maine students and schools are using to do everything from teaching algebra to routing buses.”

In Maryland, a similar discussions is underway, according to an article in the Indiana-based Daily Journal.  Many Maryland schools use the cloud system and have personal information and digital content about students on it. Some officials state that the companies who run the cloud system have been selling that information to private companies for commercial use. The Maryland bill would put restrictions and limitations on vendors who sell cloud operating systems to schools.

Meanwhile, the New York State Education Department is coming under fire for what many view to be a breach in student privacy. The department is accused of collecting large amounts of student data without parental consent according to an article by Holly Kellum in The Epoch Times. The government body claims that all the information collected was necessary and that it will use the information to track students’ progress and come up with more personalized learning tools.

However, many parents and the New York  State Assembly Education Committee disagree. Parents state that they were never asked for their consent to use their child’s information and should have been given the opportunity to opt out of the data collecting. The State Education Department insists that if parents were given the option to opt out, that it would interrupt the flow of educational services that the school district could give their child.