Media Release

Media Release: Child Data, Information and Privacy

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The use oftechnology in early childhood centres and school classrooms is prevalent andincreasing.  

Access to digital technology, the internet and the multitude of online learning tools is something that our learners are growing up with.  Yet, how much do our pre-schools and schools,staff, students, parents, whānau and communities know about the long-term impacts that digital access and online data collection have on the lives of rangatahi and tamariki.

The EducationPartnership and Innovation Trust (EPIT) recently hosted an online panel of experts to discuss the issues facing learners within and outside of schools arising from the digital learning environment and data collection happening in the platforms, apps and sites used. Our panellists were:

·      Anjela Webster, Founder, Generation Online

·      Brent Carey, CEO, Netsafe

·      Dr. Caroline Keen, Founder, Socio digital Research

·       Rick Shera, Partner, Lowndes Jordan

Having sourced questions from teachers, principals, parents and others working in education, the panel had a wide-ranging robust discussion.  Questions ranged from the storage and ownership of the data, the means by which they are harvested, what and how data is used, gaining consent, and the ethical and moral obligations of schools and parents in protecting children’s privacy.

The panel lists discussed the legalities of data collection, storage and sharing of the data collected by software providers; the ethical aspects of data collection, including the responsibilities of pre-schools, schools, communities and whānau in protecting the learner. The panel also shared what could go wrong, and what good practices and state of being looks like.

“The consequences for today’s children are extremely significant as they are being data-fied from pre-birth” says Dr CarolineKeen, Founder, Socio digital Research.

Many of our young people freely share considerable amounts of sensitive information –photos, their sexual or gender identities, aspects of their personal lives at home and with friends – with little thought as to what happens to that data and as Brent Carey, CEO, Netsafe stated, privacy, and anonymity, are still fundamental privacy rights, so what can we do to better educate and protect our tamariki?

However,“children’s informational privacy extends beyond what they knowingly share online.” explains Dr Keen.

Students in New Zealand schools are using digital services and EdTech on a daily basis, however, “international research shows that student management systems, and teaching resources like Google Classroom and many EdTech applications that are utilised in schools to assist educators and students, expose children to new data privacy risks. Many EdTech share or allow third party access to the data they collect from children during their education and at that point their data is lost to a global commercial data ecosystem. For instance, a report by the Human Rights Watch which reviewed 145 EdTech products sanctioned by governments during Covid found that 89% of these were actively mining children’s personal data by sending or granting third-party companies access toit. We are at a stage globally where we need to investigate and regulate EdTech to safeguard children’s privacy in schools” says Dr Keen.

During Covid, the uptake of digital services and EdTech rose significantly and this is expected to grow to a $600billion-dollar global business by 2027.

However, some of these tools, are effective in the education setting, like Google Classroom, and are very helpful for educators, as noted by Rick Shera, Partner, Lowndes Jordan. So how do educators know what happens to the utility of the platform or app if they turn on or off the privacy settings? How can end users, such as kaiako, staff, and learners be better informed?

The Privacy Act2020 did not go far enough for children and their rights, in educational settings, and privacy issues remain. According to Anjela Webster, Founder,Generation Online, robust policies and procedures, and communication within preschools, schools and kura are essential, and should be available in plain speak for all members of the community. Involving learners in the decisions around EdTech is also important in creating a safe and inclusive culture.

There is no such thing as guaranteed security, so focusing on what information goes into a system is critical, especially for children and young people. As Shera noted“the elephant in the room is that most of these platforms are not New Zealand based and the law which applies to them is not New Zealand law.” He recommends you only collect the minimum necessary data you need and keep it for the minimum period you can.

Click here to view the panel discussion.

About the Education Partnership & Innovation Trust (EPIT):

EPIT is a registered charitable trust focused on improving equitable outcomes for all learners throughout Aotearoa New Zealand via sustainable, cross-sector, transformative partnerships.  Working with innovative leaders, utilising technology and digital assets, we create opportunities for collaboration, innovation and co-creation, to influence education mindsets and bring about embedded systems change.

Media contact:

Nish Chakravarthy, Community Engagement Manager

Mobile: 022 381 0377



Nischal Chakravarthy
22 November 2022
min read

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