New Study of School Websites Reveals Widespread Online Security and Privacy Issues
According to a new study released today by EdTech Strategies, Tracking: EDU – Education Agency Website Security and Privacy Practices, state and local education agency websites were found to lack important security and privacy protections for students, families, and educators. “State department of education and school district websites have become indispensable for accessing information about public schools and to communicating with school officials,” said Douglas Levin, president of EdTech Strategies and study director. “However, analyses of education agency websites suggest a widespread lack of attention to issues of online security and privacy.”
Based on automated and manual reviews conducted over 4 months (between October 2017 and January 2018) of every state department of education websiteand a nationwide sample of 159 school district websites, Tracking: EDU found that:
- Most state and local education agency websites do not support secure browsing, putting both schools and website visitors at risk;
- Virtually every state and local education agency has partnered with online advertising companies to deploy sophisticated user tracking and surveillance on their websites, quite extensively in some cases; and
- Many state and the vast majority of local education agency websites do not disclose the presence and nature of this ad tracking and user surveillance, or the mechanisms for how users can opt out of these data collections. Those few that do make such disclosures often do so in misleading ways, including by making demonstrably false statements about their privacy practices.
The use of third-party ad tracking and online surveillance technology was found to be nearly universal on both state and local education agency websites; well over 40 unique tracking services were identified in the limited scans conducted by this study.
School administrators, technology directors, and education policymakers are encouraged to act swiftly to address the issues raised by this first-of-its-kind study. “Partnerships with online advertising companies on school websites must be disclosed,” said Douglas Levin. “The cost of seeking news and information about your state and community’s public schools should not be your privacy or online safety.”
About EdTech Strategies
EdTech Strategies, LLC, is a boutique consultancy focused on providing strategic research and counsel on issues at the intersection of education, public policy, technology, and innovation. For more information: https://www.edtechstrategies.com.
Source: EdTech Strategies