Whether for e-books or specialized K-12 apps, Google’s Chromebooks can often be cost-effective alternatives to iPads.
But could we be paying another price—in student privacy?
I read with interest Paul’s report on an Illinois school district mandating a Chromebook for every student in the classroom. I have been following the news of Google’s education initiatives for some time, and I find that one issue Google has shied away from really addressing is student privacy.
Those who think this is an overblown concern should check out the excellent guide the Electronic Frontier Foundation has produced for parents of Chrome-using students. Among the settings that it suggests you disable are ‘auto-sync’ for apps, extensions, bookmarks, browser history and other things; ‘automatically report details of possible security incidents to Google’ and ‘allow any site to track your physical location.’
And this Re/Code article has more:
“Jeff W., worried that his 9-year-old daughter would be tracked online, contacted the EFF after his daughter’s school began mandating the use of Chromebooks in the classroom. His concerns only grew when the district created a Google account for his daughter that included her real name and date of birth. The complaint was a tipping point for the digital rights group, which had received numerous inquiries from other parents concerned about the use of Chromebooks and other technologies in the classroom.”
I think this is going to be the next big area of tech legislation. It’s useful for me to be able to, say, assign a reading level to a student and have their device automatically funnel appropriate books to them accordingly. It’s useful for me to be able to log in as the teacher and see which of the books they read, and which activities they completed (and to what degree of success) based on their reading. But who, besides me, has access to that data? And what happens to it after that student leaves my classroom? Do we automatically reset the system at the end of the school year to keep that student data private? Should that student be able to send that data with them to their next class, their next teacher, their next school? How do we ensure that this data does not get compromised while the student is under our care? And what remedies can we offer if it does?
It is not as simple as handing the student a device and saying there, here you go. We need to start examining these issues more critically.
Image credit: Here.