In the growing hubbub around student data privacy and security, it can be hard for edtech companies to identify concrete steps to demonstrate their commitment to protecting student information. Education tech startup Clever recently made a commitment to transparency by making their privacy policies open source, posting the policy on GitHub so anyone can track changes.
"When the AFT announced that ShareMyLesson integrated with Clever, I asked some questions about what this meant for teachers and their data, as information was going from one entity to another," Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald's questions led the startup to realize that it needed to explain its terms in much clearer language.
"It was boilerplate language, and we wanted to raise the bar," Clever co-founder Dan Carroll said.
"If Clever becomes part of another company, we don't ever want the Clever data to be separated from the Clever service," Carroll said.
"Before, if you didn't like the terms, you could write a blog post or tweet at us, but those are fragmented conversations," he said. "Now, it's a public forum. It enables us to get feedback and respond to it."
As Carroll sees it, open source policies can change the way individuals engage with student data privacy.
"People often only look to privacy when there's a problem," Carroll said. "With friendly language that you can actually comment on, we want people to look at it proactively."
"Making this public and open source legitimizes a practice that's happened for a long time—sharing and borrowing and developing on top of each other," he said. "For an edtech company starting tomorrow, we would encourage them to use Clever's policy as a basis for what they're doing: borrow our terms, as long as you also put them in practice."
Carroll warns that open sourcing terms is no panacea for the issues around protecting student data privacy.
"This is not going to solve the problem—we need to change our policies, our practices," he explained, "but this can make the problem more visible and more tangible."
"It can be done within half an hour," Fitzgerald said. "And that includes time to make a sandwich."
Reposted with permission from edSurge.com