According to a new report, millions of children who used distance learning apps during the pandemic had their personal data — and even behavioral information — shared with advertisers.
This includes apps that students were required to use by their schools, says Human Rights Watch…
The organization investigated a total of 164 government-approved apps and websites in several countries.
Governments in 49 of the world’s most populous countries have undermined children’s rights by approving e-learning products during Covid-19 school closures without adequately protecting children’s privacy, said Human Rights Watch in a report released today […]
Of the 164 EdTech products reviewed, 146 (89%) appeared to engage in data practices that risked or violated children’s rights. These products monitored or had the ability to monitor children, in most cases in secret and without the consent of the children or their parents, in many cases collecting personal data such as who they are, where they are, what what they’re doing in class, who their family and friends are, and what kind of device their family can afford to use.
Most of the e-learning platforms reviewed installed tracking technologies that tracked children outside of their virtual classrooms and on the internet, over time. Some children were invisibly marked and fingerprinted in ways that were impossible to avoid or erase – even if the children, their parents and teachers had been aware of this and had a desire to do so – without destroying the ‘device.
The group found that most e-learning platforms shared children’s data with ad tech companies, which then used it not only for personalized ads, but also to influence website feeds.
Many other EdTech products have sent children’s data to AdTech companies that specialize in behavioral advertising or whose algorithms determine what children see online. […]
These companies have not only distorted children’s online experiences, but they have also risked influencing their opinions and beliefs at a time in their lives when they are at high risk of manipulative interference.
Families were often unable to opt out of distance learning apps with poor privacy policies.
Some governments have made it mandatory for students and teachers to use their EdTech product […]
Most EdTech companies did not allow students to opt out of tracking; most of this surveillance took place in secret, without the child’s knowledge or consent. In most cases, it was impossible for children to opt out of this surveillance and data collection without opting out of compulsory education and giving up formal learning during the pandemic.
Human Rights Watch says it will share its evidence with anyone who wishes to verify the findings or conduct further analysis.
A previous study found that things are even worse on Android, with educational apps on that platform eight times more likely to share personal data than those on iOS.
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