Human Rights Watch (HRW) has found that a large majority of education technology (EdTech) tools endorsed by national governments around the world for use in their education systems appear to have surveilled or had the capacity to surveil children in ways that risked or infringed on their rights. The findings follow on from the release in May 2022 of a detailed research report by HRW that reviewed the findings of a technical analysis of 163 EdTech products endorsed by governments in 49 countries. It found that in the rush to connect children to virtual classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic, governments endorsed EdTech tools that appeared to engage in data practices that put children’s rights at risk, contributed to undermining them, or actively infringed these rights, often without the knowledge or awareness of students and parents.
On 12 July 2022, HRW released an accompaniment to the report which provides privacy profiles of the EdTech tools analysed and which are intended to assist parents, teachers, and others to understand how government-recommended tools may have handled children’s data and impacted their right to privacy. Notably, a number of tools used in South Africa were included in the review, and some were found to collect extensive sensitive data on children and to send that data to third parties.
The findings indicate the pervasive nature of surveillance in online tools used for education and highlight the frequent lack of meaningful consent obtained from both students and parents to the various uses of their data. The report argues that children should not be required to give up their privacy in order to access education and provides recommendations for governments, ministries and departments of education, as well as EdTech providers and AdTech companies, on steps to be taken to ensure the protection of children’s rights in the use of EdTech tools.
- Human Rights Watch’s report can be accessed here.
- The privacy profiles and more information on the campaign #StudentsNotProducts can be accessed here.
Please note: The information contained in this note is for general guidance on matters of interest, and does not constitute legal advice. For any enquiries, please contact us at [email protected].