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A recently published study by the Fordham Center for Law and Information Policy has prompted Margo Day, vice president of U.S. Education for Microsoft, to issue a call to action to school leaders, parent groups, industry groups and policy makers to be better partners with schools. She suggests coming up with solutions on how to be more transparent about student data and agreeing to clear restrictions on the use of student data, including not using such data for advertising, sales or marketing purposes or without parental consent.
As Day writes on the Microsoft in Education blog, “Those common sense recommendations are just part of the improved transparency related to use of student and institution data that our industry owes its customers in the education community. Without these critical steps from industry, schools will continue to struggle to meet regulatory requirements and more importantly, parent expectations related to the stewardship of student data.”
Day advocates the potential benefits of cloud-based technology in schools, “from lowering costs to providing anytime-anywhere learning opportunities to readying students for jobs where an increasing number of cloud technologies will be in use.” But the Fordham study revealed a troubling finding, Day writes: “The cloud contracts the Fordham research team analyzed often lacked basic terms related to the handling and protection of student data accessible by the service provider.”
The Fordham report also puts the onus on service providers to “pay closer attention to privacy issues and obligations,” and “treat districts fairly” to “effectively safeguard student information.” The report makes recommendations that include requiring contracts to prohibit sales and marketing uses of student data without express parental consent, as well as requiring the service provider to clearly disclose any commercial use of student data.
Day makes it clear where Microsoft stands on this issue. “Microsoft firmly believes advertising and marketing uses of student data should not be permitted by service providers. Further, contracts with schools should state these concepts in clear and unambiguous terms. We welcome calls for an industrywide discussion aimed at creating more consistent and uniform commitments by technology vendors who sell their products, services and devices into the education market. As an industry, we must help schools meet their obligations as stewards of student and institution data.”
Read more from Day about this issue on the Microsoft in Education blog.
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Athima ChansanchaiMicrosoft News Center Staff