School network consortium partners with Cyberlaw Clinic to create privacy toolkit for school systems

With the help of the Cyberlaw Clinic, the Consortium of School Networks (“CoSN”) has released the Protecting Privacy in Connected Learning Toolkit. The toolkit, issued in March as part of CoSN’s new Protecting Privacy in Connected Learning initiative, provides an in-depth, step-by-step privacy guide is to help school system leaders navigate complex federal laws and related issues.

Privacy law in the United States is a complicated patchwork of state and federal case law and statutes, and one of the biggest issues for schools has been finding a way to protect student privacy and data with the new technological advances. CoSN, a professional association for schools system technology leaders, aims to empower educational leaders to leverage technology to realize engaging learning environments.

In April 2013, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society partnered with Microsoft and prepared a briefing document in advance of the Student Privacy Initiative’s workshop, “Student Privacy in the Cloud Computing Ecosystem.” This event brought together leading experts from government, educational institutions, academia, and business to discuss the core issues and current practices related to the handling of student information in the cloud.

A guide (downloadable from SSRN here) was finalized and published in November and aims to offer schools, parents, and students alike a sense of some of the laws that may apply as schools begin to use cloud computing tools to help educate students. The document is not intended to provide a comprehensive summary of these statutes, nor privacy law in general, and it is not a substitute for specific legal advice. Rather, this guide highlights key provisions in these statutes and maps the legal and regulatory landscape.

CoSN has now launched the Protecting Student Privacy in Connected Learning toolkit as a step-by-step guide to navigating the complexity of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and related privacy issues. The toolkit is organized as a flowchart, and addresses FERPA and COPPA compliance issues as well as smart, suggested practices that go beyond compliance. The toolkit also includes helpful definitions, checklists, examples, and key questions to ask.

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society’s Student Privacy Initiative, led by Executive Director Urs Gasser, explores the opportunities and challenges that may arise as educational institutions consider adopting cloud computing technologies. In its work across three overlapping clusters—Privacy Expectations & Attitudes, School Practices & Policies, and Law & Policy—this initiative aims to engage diverse stakeholder groups from government, educational institutions, academia, and business, among others, develop shared good practices that promote positive educational outcomes, harness technological and pedagogical innovations, and protect critical values.