WASHINGTON, D.C. – Future of Privacy Forum Senior Counsel and Director of Education Privacy Amelia Vance joined National Public Radio’s Ohio affiliate, WOSU, for an interview on All Sides with Ann Fisher to discuss student data privacy.
As more schools explore surveillance technologies to address school safety issues, Vance explained, it’s critical to ensure certain guardrails are in place to protect students’ information.
“Communities should absolutely adopt the school safety measures that they think are necessary for their community, but we [also] want to make sure that they don’t have unintended consequences – that they don’t actually harm students more than they help ensure school safety,” Vance said. Listen to the full interview.
During the interview, Vance highlighted concerns that must be considered as schools and state and local officials explore school safety technologies that collect data and personal information, including social media content, images, and website search history, and use this data to identify students that could be deemed a threat.
Specifically, Vance highlighted examples of students who have typed a sensitive word or phrase, like “shooting hoops,” or posted images that are falsely flagged as problematic. As a result, these students – and the school administrators – can end up trapped in time-consuming “threat assessment process” that can lead to unjust school suspension or even expulsion.
Vance noted, “You have students who have gone through the threat assessment process, which is intended to make things better for students… but what we’ve seen is, in some cases, these threat assessments are discriminating against students with autism or students with disabilities… Those students aren’t threats, they’re simply students who need additional help.”
Vance also warned that some surveillance technologies could inadvertently deter students from seeking help (e.g. searching for resources and support for depression) because they believe certain search terms they will be ‘flagged’ as potential threats.
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