Online learning at New Zealand schools and privacy
Privacy Foundation New Zealand, as part of its programme for 2022, has commenced an investigation into the privacy of children and young people at New Zealand schools with a focus on the recent shift towards an online learning/teaching environment.
From the preliminary conversations with stakeholders in the education sector: schools, the Ministry of Education, Netsafe, New Zealand School Trustees Association, Office of the Privacy Commissioner we have identified that none of these organisations has a specific focus on privacy risks arising from online learning.
The schools and kura in New Zealand use different software for online learning. It seems that most software has been acquired under framework agreements between the Ministry of Education and software providers. However, it appears no one has verified whether the software incorporates functionality that tracks and profiles children while they are in online classes and outside that, across the Internet.
This paper is a list of preliminary issues that have been discovered during the Foundation’s investigation until August 2022. During that time, we have undertaken preliminary conversations with the stakeholders. We also have sent Official Information Act requests to the Ministry of Education and to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. (All the requests can be found at the Foundation’s website). The goal of the paper is to list the potential issues, present them to a wider audience and stimulate further discussion around them. In the course of further investigation, some of those issues may be found to not exist. Also, there may be other issues which will arise. So, the above is our best assessment as at August 2022.
The Privacy Foundation would like to ensure that our children are brought up in a safe educational environment in which their personal information is used only for the goals of their education and in their best interest.
In this regard, we are seeking more information from all stakeholders, including the public, about the organisation of the online learning environment, the digital platforms used by New Zealand schools and methods and tools used to protect children and young people’s privacy and their personal information.
If you have any information or comments, please contact Marcin Betkier (Marcin.Betkier@vuw.ac.nz).
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