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Cloud Storage at Your Child’s School: Are They Telling the Parents Everything?

Schools today are becoming far more technology-based than we have ever thought possible. Students do their homework online, use iPads and computers in the classroom, and some are even assigned individual computers to use for school work. As data levels increase, schools are generally turning toward cloud storage for their data-tracking needs. That also means that personal information for children, such as their address, phone, activity schedule, and other similar information is stored out on the cloud. Since third-parties generally run and service schools’ information systems, third-parties have access to all of your child’s information. This, naturally, presents a serious threat to the child’s privacy and information like this could be dangerous to the child if it falls into the wrong hands.

Fordham University conducted a recent study to determine how schools use their cloud storage. They found that 95% of schools use cloud facilities for services like tracking student performance, support information for classroom activities, cafeteria payment tracking, transportation schedules, and student guidance. However, only 25% of school districts inform parents of their use of cloud services. In fact, 20% of districts do not have policies for the use of their online services. A large number also do not have privacy policies in place with their cloud storage service providers.

Only 7% of the contracts evaluated in the study restrict the sale or the marketing of student information by vendors. Many agreements allow the service provider to change the terms of the contract without notice to the school. Most agreements did not have provisions for parental notice, consent, or access to their child’s information. Those that required the parents to consent to privacy agreements often had agreements that contradicted the agreements the service provider had with the school. An alarming number of agreements allowed the cloud service provider to retain the student’s information forever with no provision for eventually deleting it when it is no longer needed.

To summarize the study, many schools are using cloud service providers, but fail to inform the parents that they are using these services. The service providers store this data, but have severely lacking privacy agreements and most are allowed to sell your child’s information to third-parties. As a parent, these facts are chilling.

The study mentioned above suggests several changes that schools should make to address this problem, including better contracts that restrict third-party sharing and training for teachers and staff about the technology and risks involved. Perhaps the most important recommendation is that the school should inform the parents of the use of cloud storage and any data-sharing. As the study shows, most parents do not know that the school is using cloud storage, and if the parents knew about the problem then it would most likely be addressed accordingly.

As a parent, one of the most important things you can do for the safety of your child is to ask questions. Determine if your child’s school has a cloud storage program. Is that program sharing your child’s information with third parties? Parents should at least know about the program and be able to consent to it. If you have questions about the potential legal implications of cloud storage and data sharing at your child’s school, contact McCarthy, Callas & Feeney today at 309-788-2800. We are happy to address your legal concerns.

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