Protecting Students’ Right to Privacy

As schools are implementing new policies using student photo IDs and digital IDs, there is rising concern that students, parents, and school administrators may not be aware of how these new IDs could make private information accessible to others. The changes in ID use and advances in technology may significantly infringe on students’ privacy rights.

Many schools, from kindergartens to colleges, require that students and personnel wear some form of ID at all times. There are various types of IDs available, including photo IDs on lanyards or clips, cards with radio frequency identification chips (RFIDs), and wearable devices that replace physical badges.

It may seem like schools are simply updating their ID policies and security systems. Using photo IDs provides another layer of protection to help prevent strangers from intruding on school campuses. Digital IDs track who is in attendance and allow students to make various purchases, such as lunches or school supplies. But although new IDs offer convenience, students, parents, and teachers may feel less secure knowing the increase in potential risks.

When a chip is a necessity to students – allowing students to enter dorms or buy food in the cafeteria – some might consider privacy to be jeopardized.

Setting Limits

Schools now are able to gather extensive data about attendees. With new IDs, institutions have access to more student information, such as photo databases, attendance records, and students’ physical locations.  But how much information should schools be allowed to collect about students? Are enough safeguards in place to prevent schools from sharing this information with outside parties?

Some limitations for using new technology are already in place due to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) laws. FERPA laws are designed to keep student information, such as educational records and other student information, private. These laws prohibit third parties from accessing student information.

However, educational institutions are still able disclose certain student information. Schools can disclose information that it deems “not harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed,” according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Photo IDs

Student photos can be considered directory information, according to FERPA Guidance from the US Department of Education. A significant concern among parents is that directory information can be released to outside organizations without parental consent. Sharing this personal information is not considered an invasion of privacy.

Parents and students can choose to notify schools in writing that they wish to opt out of directory information disclosures. The question then becomes whether or not parents and students are aware that personal information may be shared. Are they aware that they have the right to opt out?

Online photo directories can pose problems as well. When student photos are used for IDs, images may be stored in an online directory. While school websites post policies regarding student photo ID usage, there is no guarantee that the policies will be upheld.

Additionally, even though there may be ways to further restrict privacy settings for these photos, students may overlook or not even realize that photos are part of an accessible directory.

Digital IDs

Apple recently developed student IDs that are part of wearable technology. These digital ID chips are stored in i Phones and Apple Watches. According to Edsurge.com, digital IDs will be used this fall at Duke University, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Alabama.

With new ID technology, more information sharing is possible. The tracking used in RFID devices and wearable technology reveals specific student locations. Certain types of chips even have the capacity to gather information during times when students are not in class or even on campus.

The technological capabilities of digital IDs have even more potential for invasion of privacy. This type of data collection could be used to evaluate and predict student patterns and behaviors.  Some feel this closer look into students’ private lives is invasive, unwarranted, and even illegal.

Should every on-campus activity and location pattern be accessible to student institutions or technology companies developing these IDs? Or anyone else? Is an institution-imposed location or monitoring time limit enough to prevent schools – or third party technology developers – from accessing personal information regarding the physical location of each student?

Administrators, parents, and students may be unaware of how personal information could potentially be obtained when implementing new ID policies and procedures. While student safety may be the overarching goal for new photo policies and IDs with digital tracking, students’ rights to privacy and safety could be significantly threatened. Without the proper safeguards in place, photo database use and chip technology can be hazards to protecting student privacy and safety.

 

Resources:

https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-06-06-apple-s-new-digital-student-ids-raise-questions-about-security
http://www.naceweb.org/public-policy-and-legal/legal-issues/ferpa-primer-the-basics-and-beyond/
https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/mndirectoryinfo.html

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