Data Privacy: Can Innovation and Privacy Coexist?

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Recently, my bride shared with me that the parents of my daughter’s classmates had been calling to ask for counsel on whether or not they should allow their children to place their school work in cloud service providers offered by the school district. The core issue is the ambiguous privacy terms or lack of clarity regarding the protection of their child’s online data privacy. In many ways, schools have presented parents with a binary choice to make without clear communication on the implications of either choice or whether a better alternative exists.

I have been so outspoken on this issue at home and across the country that I almost felt it was a rhetorical question. However, the questions themselves and the quarters from which they are drawn highlight that families are becoming more savvy about the digital learning transition in our schools. The recent security breaches with online service providers to retail stores have personally affected families. Moreover, families (at least those in my North Texas community) are increasingly more concerned about schools protecting their kids both in the physical world and the online world. Data privacy is quickly becoming a mainstream conversation.

Microsoft’s position on student data privacy remains crystal clear–student are not products–they nor data about them should be used for commercial purposes–today or in the future. Furthermore, the data created, shared, collaborated by students, the locations they connect, the devices they use, and the relationships they make should never be offered, collected, or improperly used for collateral commercial activities by a third party. Cloud services providers and educational technology companies that capture student data, metadata, and academic byproducts derived from the use of their service need to be explicit and disclose how that student data is used, archived, retained, and disposed. That information should be available to schools and families at any time, on any device, in an open-readable format.

Security and innovation are often times at odds with each other. How can schools thrive in a cloud-first and mobile-first world if data about students can be siphoned and commercialized by second or third parties–knowingly or unwittingly? This is the central question we want to entertain and seek perspectives at the SXSWedu 2015 conference panel. Can Innovation and Data Privacy Coexist?

Join us in supporting this ongoing conversation by voting yes for the panel here. You can add your voice to the conversation by leaving your questions on the comments below. I’ll answer many of them here and the best we’ll save for the panel discussion at SXSWedu to entertain unscripted in real-time.  Thanks for your support.  I look forward to seeing you again, SXSWedu 2015.


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