Privacy and Cloud Computing in Public Schools, Fordham Center on Law and Information Policy, December 12, 2013.
“Today, data driven decision-making is at the center of educational policy debates in the United States. School districts are increasingly turning to rapidly evolving technologies and cloud computing to satisfy their educational objectives and take advantage of new opportunities for cost savings, flexibility, and always-available service among others. As public schools in the United States rapidly adopt cloud-computing services, and consequently transfer increasing quantities of student information to third-party providers, privacy issues become more salient and contentious. The protection of student privacy in the context of cloud computing is generally unknown both to the public and to policy-makers. This study thus focuses on K-12 public education and examines how school districts address privacy when they transfer student information to cloud computing service providers. The goals of the study are threefold: first, to provide a national picture of cloud computing in public schools; second, to assess how public schools address their statutory obligations as well as generally accepted privacy principles in their cloud service agreements; and, third, to make recommendations based on the findings to improve the protection of student privacy in the context of cloud computing. Fordham CLIP selected a national sample of school districts including large, medium and small school systems from every geographic region of the country. Using state open public record laws, Fordham CLIP requested from each selected district all of the district’s cloud service agreements, notices to parents, and computer use policies for teachers. All of the materials were then coded against a checklist of legal obligations and privacy norms. The purpose for this coding was to enable a general assessment and was not designed to provide a compliance audit of any school district nor of any particular vendor.”