How Schools Can Keep Student Data Safe

The wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new uses for student data to support online learning methods and institutional decision-making. However, these technological advancements and heightened utilization of student data on campuses have exposed young users to online predators--with over 89% of websites collecting personal information from children, according to a report published by the Federal Trade Commission. With that in mind, here are some helpful ways to ensure the security of students' personal information from unauthorized use. These three simple security practices can lower the risk of unintentional disclosure of sensitive student records and help preserve public trust.
Minimize Student Data Collection
In the modern age of the internet, new modes of collaborative learning and tech tools have emerged to meet the needs of today's technology-oriented generation. As a result, some schools no longer require their students to provide SSNs to minimize the risks associated with data collection. It can be helpful to keep all the control access to only a handful of people to prevent unauthorized data access or other threats long before they occur. However, according to a recent report published by the U.S. The average academic institution only spends less than 5% of its budget on IT support and upgrades. That is why according to a group of experts who participated in the ACM CCS, a conference on computer and communications security, it is important to invest in reliable technology partners with rock-solid breach prevention controls and privacy protocols to avoid cybersecurity breaches from occurring.
Set Clear Policies Regarding Student Data
The majority of the students interviewed in a series of focus group studies conducted by NASPA showed mixed responses with regard to student-led data collection by academic institutions. Some students trust their schools to do the right thing with their personal information, while some have experienced racial and ethnic discrimination due to this practice. The same report from NASPA recommends academic institutions and instructors to outline policies on student data usage and set clear limits. This can help avoid an uncomfortable violation of privacy among students and avoid becoming a targeted outreach based on one's demographics.
Train Faculty and Staff
With the proliferation of online educational tools, it is the educator's prerogative to protect their students' personal data and ensure that every tool they use in the classroom is grounded in clear data privacy protocols. One helpful tip for instructors is to keep a professional social media account to be on the loop while still being safe on social media platforms. To effectively reach out to students, instructors and staff should be well-equipped with the right training and should clearly understand what they can and cannot ask from students. Without proper training, academic institutions and faculty members may face serious backlash from students and legal consequences that may linger long after the coronavirus pandemic has passed.
Similar to how national laws set distinct guidelines, schools and learning institutions can safeguard their students and navigate the complex landscape of the internet by ensuring their information is kept private. Therefore, it is important for academic and learning institutions to take active measures in protecting sensitive student records and exercise more caution to protect their information from unauthorized disclosure.
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