Student Data Privacy

FBI Issues Warning on Educational Technology

As the use of educational tools continues to grow, the FBI is warning the public to be aware of the risks of data collection and unsecured systems.

Some schools might have a problem on their hands when it comes to the use of educational technology and the need to protect student privacy, according to an alert issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The alert warns schools that the widespread collection of student data could have privacy and safety implications if the information is compromised or exploited.

The FBI recommends the following for parents and families:

  • Research existing student and child privacy protections of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act and state laws that apply to educational technology services.
  • Discuss with their local districts about what and how educational technologies and programs are used in their classrooms.
  • Conduct research on parent coalition and information-sharing organizations who can provide support and additional resources.
  • Research school-related cyber breaches, which can inform families of student data vulnerabilities.
  • Consider credit and theft monitoring to check for any fraudulent use of their children's identity.
  • Conduct regular internet searches of children's information to help identify exposures and limit the spread of information on the internet.

Multiple attacks on school information technology systems occurred in 2017 through actors hacking into multiple school district servers, according to the FBI. Student contact information, education plans, homework assignments, medical records and counselor reports were stolen, and then the thieves used that information to contact, extort and threaten students with the release of their personal information.

As a result of these attacks, the Department of Education issued a CyberAdvisory alert in October 2017 to encourage IT staff at schools and districts to protect their systems through security audits, training staff and students on best practices and reviewing all sensitive data to maintain proper controls. 

Parents with evidence of their children's data being compromised should contact the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center here.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe covering education policy and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

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