Data Mining in Education Has Parents Asking, 'Are Our Kids Still Safe in School?'

Article excerpt

A few weeks ago, news broke about PRISM, a US government secret program that allegedly has direct access to internet companies like Facebook, Google, Skype, Yahoo and YouTube.

The program is said to have given US officials access to emails, web chats and other online correspondences of US citizens. The US government is also being accused of mining data and sharing intelligence to allied countries like Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Germany.

In a report from Associated Press (AP) and Agence France Presse (AFP), Google CEO Larry Page and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg denied reports depicting their companies as willing participants in online spying.

The expose sparked a global debate on online conspiracy, online data privacy and data mining. Meanwhile, in Manila education leaders, parents, teachers and government representatives gathered to discuss the same issues in a smaller, albeit equally pressing scale - data privacy and data mining in education.

Recently, Vibal Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of Vibal Publishing house, held a forum entitled, 'Are your kids tech-safe?' The forum aims to educate parents that their kids can be in danger if businesses continue to violate data privacy in education.

"With these tremendous leaps in the realm of digital education and technology-aided teaching and learning we've come to realize that certain safety nets have to be put in place to protect the privacy of data especially of Filipino students," said Esther Vibal, chair Vibal group of companies.

The forum started with a presentation from Jeff Gould of SafeGov.org, an international organization working with IT providers and leading industry experts dedicated to promoting trusted and responsible cloud computing solutions for the public sector.

In his presentation, Gould zeroed in on the latest facts and figures on the alarming situation of data privacy around the globe.

"Internet companies and concerned businesses should stop from using children's personal identifiable information and from tracking their online activities because these put kids at risk as said information may end up in the hands of hackers, human traffickers and identity thieves among others," Gould said.

Gould further explained that schools that receive services from cloud technology providers should insist on contracts that expressly ban the exploitation of children's email or information for other purposes than education.

"Schools should require service providers to offer transparent and specific privacy policy with strict guarantees against user profiling or web tracking," Gould said. …