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General Data Protection Regulation

Here you can find the official content of the Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (General Data Protection Regulation) in the current version. All Articles of the GDPR are linked with suitable recitals.

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Protecting Student Data: The Educator’s Guide to Data Privacy

Protecting Student Data The Educator’s Guide to Data Privacy

When EU General Data Protection Regulation was enforced more than three years ago, companies and organizations had to stop, rewind, modify, and adjust the way they processed personal data in the past.

However, GDPR does not only apply to businesses. It also applies to public institutions, including schools, kindergartens, universities, and even internationally.

Although GDPR is technically a European regulation, due to its extraterritorial effect, educational institutions outside the EU may also be obligated to comply if they are processing the personal data of EU students, which automatically applies to foreign exchange students’ programs.

So what are your obligations when protecting students’ data privacy? This guide will take you through the essentials regarding compliance and data protection.

So what does this mean for Educators?

Like any other public institution, schools must appoint a Data Protection Officer responsible for assuring compliance with the GDPR.

DPO guides everyone toward compliance and should revise the record-keeping policies and procedures around data collection.

This includes restricting access to data to essential staff only, defining the third parties that schools share data with, and choosing a proper, lawful basis.

However, DPO will have another important role. DPO will also be an educator assigned to train all school staff about students’ rights, privacy, and security safeguards.

If the DPO fails to convey the importance of data protection, data protection policies and procedures may only remain a dead letter.

The point is that educators will have to take their part and do their work for the compliance program to be successful, raising awareness and implementing changes in a way things have been done in the past.

Why Does Student Data Privacy Matter To Educators?

Nowadays, technology has shaped the landscapes of communication, entertainment, and other aspects of our lives. Education is no stranger to this phenomenon.

With people storing copious amounts of data in technology tools and apps, students should learn how to protect their personal data and privacy online.

It is important to educate students to keep their data safe by imploring them not to share any information with others, like passwords, social security numbers, etc.

Let them know how sensitive such data is and the consequences of accidentally sharing their information with others.

Also, building an open and honest relationship with parents or guardians can make your job much easier. You should be transparent, inform them about who processes their children’s data and their own, and explain why and how.

Disclosing data about students or parents should be avoided whenever possible. For example, if an Educator communicates with parents via email, avoid replying to all, use BCC, and avoid publicly disclosing grades or any other information about students (especially information that could reveal students’ medical history, like special dietary restrictions).

What about GDPR fines?

Did we also mention steep fines?  Schools can be fined for that, too. The Bocconi University in Italy was recently fined €200,000 for non-compliance with the GDPR.

Although some countries do not issue fines to public institutions, schools, and universities are no strangers to paying for their omissions, and you want to avoid that at any cost.

What Is Considered Student Personal Data?

Students personal data would be any data that relates to or can be related to that student directly or indirectly and involves:

  • Full name
  • Names of parents or guardians
  • Academics (i.e., grades, attendance, etc.)
  • Disciplinary records
  • Lunch program eligibility and
  • Anything else about the student that is collected, recorded, and stored by your school’s or district’s database

Some personal data is considered sensitive personal data, and their processing is allowed only under certain circumstances. For instance, if you are obligated by law or want to protect a student’s interest. Sensitive data about students would be:

  • Data related to racial or ethnic origin,
  • Political opinions,
  • Religious or philosophical beliefs,
  • Genetic data,
  • Biometric data
  • Medical history
  • Data concerning an individual’s sex life or sexual orientation

These types of data can come from any avenue as your students attend your school or district. Therefore, keeping track of where your student data is being collected and stored is important. Look to the following technologies, and ensure that student data is safeguarded from data theft and infringement:

  • Online bulletin boards
  • Email accounts
  • Apps/Tools, etc.

Pay attention to these practices

As an educational institution, you must follow certain rules and ensure your processing is based on legal grounds.

Although DPO should conduct an audit to get a complete situation overview, DPO is not all-seeing or almighty.

Everyone from school staff should carefully review their everyday operations to see if there is anything that might not be completely compliant. Make sure you follow:

  • Lawful data processing- There are six lawful bases for processing personal data. If you want to collect and process students’ data, you must define which legal grounds you will rely on. In most cases, schools will rely on the performance of a task in the public interest. However, if you want to use this data for different purposes, you will probably have to rely on consent from a parent or student (13 and up).
  • Transparency principle– building an open relationship with parents can be crucial. Make sure you provide information about which data you collect about them and their children, why you are processing it, how, if there are any third parties with whom you share that data, like an online learning platform or app. Disclose this on your website under the privacy policy or via the school’s newsletter.
  • Security measures- GDPR requires schools to implement appropriate safeguards in order to prevent data leakage or data breaches. Your DPO will have to train all personnel to ensure everyone is aware of security risks. Implement encryption and strong passwords and provide more information about cyber threats like phishing or social engineering.

Avoiding Privacy Issues On Educational Apps/Tools

Believe it or not, privacy issues can happen no matter what Internet-based application or tool you use. These types of issues can show up in education apps and tools.

That’s why it’s important only to use apps and tools that have been vetted and approved by your school or district. However, having the app or tool vetted and approved by the Department of Education is a definite plus.

If an app or tool you want to use isn’t approved yet, send your school administration a request to vet it before you use it for your class. Just keep in mind: When recommending an app or tool, you’ll need to ensure that it has the necessary privacy safeguards to protect student data.

Enhancing Student Data Security

Finally, as you work to secure student data, it’s important to be vigilant when safeguarding such data. With that in mind, here are some helpful tips on better-securing student data:

  • Update all of your apps and software regularly. The last thing you want is to be stuck with outdated versions of apps and software. While using outdated apps and software can be harmless at first, they can actually be detrimental to your lesson or project proceedings. Outdated versions are more vulnerable to things like crashes, hacking, and other forms of cybercriminal activity. If you’re not careful and don’t update often, you’ll risk exposing student data to unauthorized parties.
  • Encrypt student data. Since student data is considered sensitive data, it’s important to use the latest encryption technology so that only authorized users and parties can have access to sensitive student data. Such helpful tech includes the following:
    • SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol)
    • SSH (Secure Shell) and
    • SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)
  • Educate, educate, educate. As mentioned earlier, it’s important to educate your students about the dangers of sensitive data being compromised online and through apps. Teach them not to share personal data AND passwords with anyone else. Also, show them the importance of creating strong passwords for their accounts. Student knowledge is priceless when it comes to protecting personal data.

Conclusion

As you can see, it’s important to safeguard student data as technology continues to evolve and seep into the educational system.

While it’s beneficial for schools and districts to use as much technology as possible to educate students better, it’s also beneficial to ensure that student data is safe from the hands of would-be cybercriminals.

It is also important for educational facilities to process students’ personal data in a compliant manner with respect to their rights and transparency principle.

As you refer to this guide, you’ll understand the importance of safeguarding student data and ensuring that all educators are educated. Remember: Students have a right to privacy, especially when it comes to their personal information. So, let’s try to keep it that way for many years to come.

Author

Christina Lee is a writer and editor at Essay editing and State of writing. She is also a contributing writer for Essay writer. As a project manager, she has overseen various projects in many companies nationwide. As a content writer, she writes articles about marketing trends and new technologies.

 

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