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To Fight 'Surveillance Culture,' Activists Release Kid-Focused Privacy Toolkit

"You shouldn't need a PhD or law degree to ensure that your child's sensitive student data isn't shared with commercial entities"

The toolkit was released after the Electronic Frontier Foundation reported that tech companies are spying on students through devices and software used in classrooms. (Image: Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Privacy activists released a toolkit on Tuesday to help parents protect their children's information online.

The Parent Toolkit for Student Privacy: A Practical Guide for Protecting Your Child's Sensitive School Data from Snoops, Hackers, and Marketers, released by the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy (PCSP) and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), teaches families about federal laws safeguarding their information, how to ask about schools' data policies, and how to advocate for stronger protections in an age when records are increasingly stored digitally.

"With districts outsourcing operations like bus, cafeteria, and instructional services to vendors who store student personal data in the 'cloud' and share it with third parties, including state and federal agencies, it's more important than ever for parents to take some control over their children's information. It's not too late to take action when it comes to protecting our children's privacy," said Rachael Stickland, PSCP co-chair.

Josh Golin, CCFC executive director, added, "You shouldn't need a PhD or law degree to ensure that your child's sensitive student data isn't shared with commercial entities. Our toolkit demystifies student privacy and empowers parents to set limits on who accesses the information collected by schools and other third parties about their children."

The toolkit was released after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published a report in April which found that "surveillance culture begins in grade school," with tech companies spying on students through devices and software used in classrooms to collect kids' names, birth dates, browsing histories, grades, disciplinary records, and other information.

"[S]urveillance culture begins in grade school, which threatens to normalize the next generation to a digital world in which users hand over data without question in return for free services—a world that is less private not just by default, but by design," said EFF researcher Gennie Gebhart, who co-authored the report.

Amul Kalia, another co-author, added, "Parents, teachers, and other stakeholders feel helpless in dealing with student privacy issues in their community. In some cases students are required to use the tools and can't opt out, but they and their families are given little to no information about if or how their kids' data is being protected and collected."

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