Internet Filtering Company N2H2 Courts Controversy over Selling of Student Data

Article excerpt

It's 10 a.m., do you know where your student's Internet data is going?

In a move that quickly devolved into a public relations headache, N2H2--one of the nation's dominant school Internet filtering companies--was fending off criticism that it allegedly sold K-12 student's Web surfing data to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Exactly what the Pentagon is doing with the data is unknown, but the revelation has sent Internet privacy advocates into a tizzy, and has put N2H2 back on its heels. N2H2's Web filtering product, Bess, is used by more than 14 million students and faculty in 17,000 schools in the U.S., according to the company.

In actuality, N2H2 did not sell any data--demographic, personal or otherwise--to the Pentagon, but a marketing company that N2H2 had an alliance with, named Roper Starch, provided some aggregated data to the defense department, according to N2H2 officials.

"This is not student data," N2H2 spokesman Allen Goldblatt, told CURRICULUM ADMINISTRATOR. "This was anonymous analysis based on Web logs." He adds that to his knowledge, the Pentagon was interested in finding out Web traffic patterns for advertising reasons, but the defense group was never "monitoring where kids were going" on the Internet.

For more than a year, N2H2 has provided the press and others--including CURRICULUM ADMINISTRATOR--with reports based on aggregated information on the most trafficked educational Web sites, but none of that material contains any kind of specific demographic information about students or schools.

Yet, upon the news of what had happened, N2H2 quickly sought to defuse the situation by issuing a letter to customers reassuring them of the company's chief mission: Protecting children.

"I want to reassure you that N2H2 is not currently sharing and will never share any data associated with your institution's Internet usage without your express written consent. N2H2 believes that the insights derived from the aggregation of anonymous data--such as analyses of the sites most used by students and teachers--are critical to optimizing the Internet's education potential. …