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Privacy Schmivacy, Part 2

Sometimes ed tech companies have a great product, but their privacy policy may really stink! We, as moral agents of the State, have a responsibility to vet the privacy policies of these companies.

Here’s another one. Animoto. It’s an application and website that provides users with the ability to create amazing videos with photos, video clips, and songs. The system takes all of your submitted assets and creates broadcast-quality compositions which you can share through email, Twitter, and Facebook.

Now with Animoto, interest-based advertisements are displayed to the user unless the user opts out, in which case, generic ads are displayed. Animoto partners with a third party to gather information about a user’s’ activities on Animoto and other sites in order to present interest-based advertising.

But their terms don’t contain a comprehensive list of third parties used to support the service and they don’t detail limits placed on third parties who collect data via Animoto. Plus, Animoto supports social login and can gather information from social login providers. Which means that user data can be sold as part of a merger or acquisition.

Desmos is another one. It’s an amazing, free graphing calculator for students and it has an activity builder for teacher to help students grasp math concepts from geometry, algebra, and calculus. It supports social login via Google and collects minimal personal information (i.e. the information collected is in line with what is needed to support the application of service).

But Desmos reserves the right to change their terms WITHOUT NOTICE to end users. The terms specify that users accept new terms SIMPLY BY USING THE SITE AFTER AN UPDATE. Because users aren’t notified of changes in terms, this creates the possibility that a user could accept changes they didn’t even know were in place.

Moreover, the terms also don’t contain specifics on what third parties are used but they do specify that data shared with third parties are governed by the privacy policies of the third parties. So what ARE those policies?

Then there’s Turnitin. Now if you’re a high school teacher, you’re probably aware of this service that provides grading, feedback, and plagiarism checking.

But did you know that all users grant the company an UNLIMITED LICENSE TO USE THEIR DATA FOR ANY PURPOSE?

And the list goes on and on. In fact, here are a few other apps and tools you might want to investigate when it comes to their privacy policies:

  • Glogster

  • GoQuest

  • Kidblog

  • Nitro Type

  • NoRedInk

  • Padlet

  • Pokemon Go (don’t get me started)

  • Schoology

  • Schoolrunner

  • Study Stack

  • VoiceThread

Now, mind you, there are a lot of applications/services that have amazing privacy policies (e.g. Seesaw, Woot Math, Pear Deck, Gradeable, Classflow, etc.). I’m not trying to freak anyone out. And I know the old adage about “who reads the terms of use anyway”. But the thing is that as professional educators, we HAVE to be vigilant and take the time to vet these technologies; just like we would take the time to vet curricular resources. We have to look at the content, the value of outcomes, the ease of use, the service’s compliance with meeting the needs of students with disabilities, AND their privacy policies.

Because remember–technologies become a part of who we are.

As educators, we shouldn’t disassociate the tools with our work. The tools BECOME A PART of our work. And just like the care you take with refining your teaching, shouldn’t you take the time to refine your understanding of the technologies you’re using?

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