California, privacy, schools

Schools, technology, and privacy

Scrutiny in California for Software in Schools (NY Times)

A leading California lawmaker plans to introduce state legislation on Thursday that would shore up privacy and security protections for the personal information of students in elementary through high school, a move that could alter business practices across the nearly $8 billion education technology software industry.

The bill would prohibit education-related websites, online services and mobile apps for kindergartners through 12th graders from compiling, using or sharing the personal information of those students in California for any reason other than what the school intended or for product maintenance.

This strikes me as a much better approach to technology in schools than what Florida state Senate is contemplating.

As we’ve mentioned before, the issue of privacy in schools is very much bigger than biometrics. Schools also keep academic records, behavioral records, medical records, socio-economic assessments for administering school lunch programs, home address information, counseling notes and a ton of other information that is much more sensitive than a fingerprint template consisting of a string text characters that cannot be used to learn anything about a student. If schools are unable to keep data secure, biometric template information is the last thing that should concern parents.

Too often, news accounts use biometrics as the ultimate example of private information and the hook on which to hang all sorts of fears the reader is supposed to imagine — i.e. part of the problem — when they are actually part of the solution. Because biometrics are far superior to usernames and passwords for securing personal information, why isn’t all electronic access to student information should be controlled biometrically?

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