Posts Tagged ‘privacy rights’

Schools, Students, and Privacy

Electronic Privacy Information Center 2015 Word Cloud

Electronic Privacy Information Center 2015 Word Cloud.
By Electronic Privacy Information Center (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Data gathering in schools goes beyond the collection of grades, test scores, and attendance. It even goes beyond recording what computer programs students use or what Web sites they visit.

Student “data” now encompasses students’ sleeping habits, health, fitness regimens, alcohol use, prescription drug use, financial situations, feelings, peer groups, interests…the list goes on.

Backlash against this increasing encroachment into students’ lives reached the House of Representatives in late April in the form of the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015. The legislation would prohibit certain invasions of student privacy.

As with most social issues, this one is complicated and complex. And as with most laws considered by U.S. politicians, the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015 has stirred controversy. There seem to be possible benefits and detriments to the stipulations of the bill, if passed. Further, some think that the proposed legislation is too strict; others, too lenient.

Many parents of students have voiced discomfort, and even alarm, about the sharing of their children’s information with third parties. According to current law, schools can share collected data strictly for the benefit of assessing and improving education. At its best, this procedure allows legitimate researchers and social scientists to study the results of the collected data and make suggestions for improvements. School districts then enact changes, and the education system improves.

This type of collaboration greatly benefitted the Chicago public-school system, and offers great promise to a current partnership between the Boston public-school district and early-childhood experts at Harvard University. Had the proposed legislation been in place, these collaborations would have been too costly for the schools. Specialized expertise in the field of education would be beyond most districts’ budgets.

The new legislation would stiffen the rules and regulations around such collaboration. Imagine the cost (in both time and resources) of requiring that schools request permission from each parent (or student, depending on his or her age) for the use of certain personal data in studies aspiring for educational improvements. This law would deter financially struggling schools or school districts from participating in valuable collaborative efforts.

This discussion–embodied within the issue of student privacy itself–is simply a small part of the much larger debate of privacy rights in the United States. Join SKS and its July Spotlight of the Month in delving into the 2015-2016 National High School Debate Topic: Surveillance: Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially curtail its domestic surveillance. Consider issues such as personal violations and national security; read what political commentator David Frum and journalist Julian Assange have to say about domestic surveillance; and quiz yourself on the country’s use of drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS).


Get Your Students Ready for Choose Privacy Week



A man gagged with tape marked privacy. Photo by Tom Murphy [Public Domain]

 Choose Privacy Week, May 1-7, is an American Library Association  (ALA) initiative to teach librarians and library users about privacy rights in a digital age. And, this year’s featured event is a Webinar called Defense Against the Digital Dark Arts, which will offer advice on how to protect one’s privacy and personal data online.

Inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, has criticized the surveillance of citizens by governments and advocated an online Magna Carta to protect the rights of users. In addition, recent polls, including ones conducted by USA Today/Pew Research Center and AP-GfK, show that Americans are increasingly placing more value on privacy over protection from terrorism. Yet, national security and law enforcement agencies argue that enhanced national security is needed to prevent terrorist strikes.

Choose SIRS Issues Researcher to help your students answer the following question:

Should governments engage in surveillance of their citizens in the interests of national security?

When you direct your students to our National Security and Privacy Leading Issue in SIRS, they will find the tools and information they need to answer this essential question. There, they can read an overview, gather statistics, and retrieve editorially-selected articles and images and formulate an opinion on this issue.

Is your school or library celebrating Choose Privacy Week? If so, let us know what you’re doing in the comments section below.

Discoverer In the News: NSA Scandal

Computer Keyboard and Hard Drive <br > Defense Logistics Agency, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

Computer Keyboard and Hard Drive
by Defense Logistics Agency, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

The U.S. Department of Defense’s National Security Agency, known as the NSA, has the authority to gather information on foreign terrorists and spies through extensive computer and phone surveillance. This power is monitored by Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and many rules govern this surveillance, such as acquiring warrants to access phone records. But the agency’s practices have been in question, such as in 2006, when  Americans learned that the agency was tapping the nation’s phone conversations.

On June 6, the details of a classified NSA program called PRISM were leaked to the press. Edward Snowden, who worked for the NSA, thought that this program was unethical and wanted the American people to know that their online privacy was being invaded. So he shared secret information about PRISM with journalists. He told the press that, through the PRISM program, NSA workers could access the main servers of nine U.S. Internet companies, meaning that the agency could view emails, videos, audio, photographs, and other documents of both U.S. citizens and people living in other countries.

Some people are supporting Snowden’s decision to reveal what he knows about PRISM. They believe, as he did, that the program violates Americans’ privacy rights. Others are calling Snowden a traitor, trusting that the U.S. government is doing what is necessary to protect the American people. What do you think? Visit this month’s Discoverer In the News, read over the article, and decide for yourself. Check out the accompanying editorial cartoon…what does it say about government surveillance and privacy rights?