Fordham Law School’s Center on Law and Information Policy has released a new report, “Privacy and Cloud Computing in Public Schools,” that CLIP says focuses on, “how school districts address privacy when they transfer student information to cloud computing service providers.” The goals are: “first, to provide a national picture of cloud computing in public schools; second, to assess how public schools address their statutory obligations as well as generally accepted privacy principles in their cloud service agreements; and, third, to make recommendations based on the findings to improve the protection of student privacy in the context of cloud computing.”
Here are a few key findings:
- 95% of districts rely on cloud services for a diverse range of functions including data mining related to student performance, support for classroom activities, student guidance, data hosting, as well as special services such as cafeteria payments and transportation planning.
- Cloud services are poorly understood, non-transparent, and weakly governed: only 25% of districts inform parents of their use of cloud services, 20% of districts fail to have policies governing the use of online services, and a sizeable plurality of districts have rampant gaps in their contract documentation, including missing privacy policies.
- Districts frequently surrender control of student information when using cloud services: fewer than 25% of the agreements specify the purpose for disclosures of student information, fewer than 7% of the contracts restrict the sale or marketing of student information by vendors, and many agreements allow vendors to change the terms without notice. FERPA, however, generally requires districts to have direct control of student information when disclosed to third-party service providers. […]
- School district cloud service agreements generally do not provide for data security and even allow vendors to retain student information in perpetuity with alarming frequency. Yet, basic norms of information privacy require data security.
Here’s how the research was done: “Fordham CLIP selected a national sample of school districts including large, medium and small school systems from every geographic region of the country. Using state open public record laws, Fordham CLIP requested from each selected district all of the district’s cloud service agreements, notices to parents, and computer use policies for teachers. All of the materials were then coded against a checklist of legal obligations and privacy norms. The purpose for this coding was to enable a general assessment and was not designed to provide a compliance audit of any school district nor of any particular vendor.”
Read the full report for more details.