University of Ontario, Institute of Technology (CANADA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2018 Proceedings
Publication year: 2018
Pages: 3669-3678
ISBN: 978-84-697-9480-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2018.0705
Conference name: 12th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 5-7 March, 2018
Location: Valencia, Spain
Today’s students of every age are going online to learn and to socialize in growing numbers, and there is every indication that this is an international phenomenon. Research in Europe indicates that online participation is an important aspect of children’s lives in 25 countries. Canadian research indicates that most students are accessing the Internet. In the United States, research indicates that the number of teens and pre-teens online is increasing exponentially, with some youths reporting that they check social media more than ten times a day.

Similarly, Internet use in classrooms is growing. While there is less research to indicate the precise rate of online learning adoption in schools, early indications are that online learning will continue to flourish. With the increase to online access, however, there are opportunities and risks. One risk, which involves online education directly, is the risk to students’ digital privacy. An international privacy collaborative recently explored how much control students have over their personal information when they log in to online applications. One of their findings is that many free educational applications on mobile devices require students to provide some personal information in order to access them. There is a deeper risk associated with educational services asking students to provide their social login identification, which could limit students’ ability to prevent the tracking of their online activities across the web. The international collaborative also finds that most online educational services try to set cookies to track browsing histories and preferences of students. These findings raise important issues about the risks to students’ digital privacy that require both practical and policy responses. These risks have implications for the educational service providers, and implications for district school authorities and schools. These risks also have implications for parents and schools who will educate young people on the opportunities and risks of online participation, as well as a call to develop clear guidelines and best practices for learning online.

This paper examines current research on both policies and educational practices in an effort to raise awareness of the risks to digital privacy that are associated with students’ online learning. The authors examine emergent global definitions of key terms such as digital footprint, digital dossier and digital permanence and relate these concepts to the potential risks that they can pose for students. Next, the authors examine available research from multiple countries to provide a sense of how students and their parents are responding to issues such as the potential loss of privacy and control over their personal information. Finally, the authors employ critical policy analysis to examine legislative and policy responses to the issue of the protection of students’ digital privacy when they are online for educational purposes. Policy analysis involves the identification of an important issue, and the examination of the roles that key stakeholders can play in determining the policy formation and implementation. Policy analysis can also be critical as it identifies policy gaps, and assesses the implications of policies with respect to who the policies may disadvantage or who profits by them. This paper closes with recommendations for policy alternatives and educational practices designed to protect students’ digital privacy.
Digital privacy, digital literacy, digital permanence, K-12 technology, identifiable information.