Online learning as a source of violations of children’s privacy

This report, signed by Hye Jung Han, researcher and lawyer specializing in children’s rights at Human Rights Watch, reports on the impact of educational technologies, known as EdTech, on children’s privacy. The global study examined the technological support from 49 countries, including France, which was used by children during the prisons and pandemic.

Human Rights Watch worked with four children from India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey: they participated in an in-depth study to find out how an EdTech app recommended by their government handled their privacy. The NGO also conducted interviews with children and their parents from 17 countries.

These platforms – applications, websites – made it possible to mark the presence of children in the class, even externally. Many of them come from private companies, although several are set up by the public service, such as the National Center for Distance Learning (CNED), which has made “My Virtual Classes” available free of charge to all teachers and their students. unit.

Dark Privacy Practices

The term “EdTech” encompasses the total set of organizations (essentially) startups) which is equipped with innovative technological know-how, specifically dedicated to knowledge, its learning as well as its transmission. For example, according to the Human Rights Watch report, children whose families had the means to access the Internet and connected devices, or who sacrificed large victims to do so, were exposed to the privacy practices of EdTech products they were asked to to use under Covid. -19 school closures.

The analysis, which was conducted between March and August 2021, led to the following conclusions: Out of the 164 EdTech products reviewed, recommended by the 49 governments surveyed, 146 (89%) appear to engage in practices considered to be be “dangerous” processing of personal data. 91 of them are websites, 39 applications and 34 available in both formats.

As the study points out, privacy is a human right However, the companies that the organization has pointed out use, among other things, identification numbers to track children; increased monitoring of the school’s Wi-Fi modems; tracking by geographical location. Worse, tracking and registering children’s fingerprints. Problem: consent is not relevant here, as a child by definition cannot enter into a contract.

There was no doubt that the platforms and tools used could be dangerous. This has never been questioned. lamented a mother of two schoolchildren in Izhevsk, Russia.

France is doing quite well: its privacy policy, which is regularly quoted in the report among the countries that have collected little data, is considered satisfactory. There are also 3 educational platforms mentioned: Jules, My class at home and MaSpéMaths.

Necessary revisions

Following these analyzes, Human Rights Watch, which deplores a significant lack of data protection for the younger generation, offers a series of recommendations aimed at the governments, ministries and companies of the 49 countries surveyed.

As the confidentiality of EdTech data during the pandemic has been widely abused, HRW urges governments to conduct audits of that confidentiality and to remove companies from their catalog that fail this audit – while parents, children and teachers, if data could have been collected, be warned. of the offensive platforms.

Ministries of education also have a role to play: they must now require all education companies to identify, prevent and mitigate negative impacts on children’s rights, including in relation to their commercial relationships and their global activities. Entering into written contracts with these providers will reduce the risk associated with personal information.

Finally, third-party companies that have contact with EdTech companies – for advertising or otherwise – should from now on compile and identify all data concerning children received through EdTech companies and take measures to immediately delete this data and ensure that it is not processed. , shared or used.

The entire study is available at this address.

Credit: Unsplash / Emily Wade

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