20 million student photos exposed in the US alone – Is your school getting it right when it comes to student image protection? - pixevety

20 million student photos exposed in the US alone – Is your school getting it right when it comes to student image protection?

 In General

For many schools today, a Facebook/Instagram page, or Twitter account serves as an essential platform to update their communities about school activities and events, especially during a pandemic. However, a recent study showed that sharing good news stories about students on public social media accounts can have negative unforeseen consequences. In fact, 15-20 million photos of students have been shared on publicly accessible Facebook pages by U.S. public schools and districts, which they suggest at least 150,000 of these photos — and perhaps as many as a million or more — depicted students who are identifiable by name and school or district.

 “While there may be benefits for schools to use this media outlet, the privacy of students within those schools may be at risk when their names and photos are shared on such a publicly accessible domain.”

The researchers concluded that providing more detailed information on such risks may make a world of difference in a parent’s or child’s decision on whether a school should share this kind of information.

Child privacy is important

Just last week President Biden squarely placed child privacy at the front and center in his State of the Union Address:

“It’s time to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children”.

When it comes to State legislation on privacy, 40 U.S. States have at least one K-12 data privacy law in place, but due to the rapidly evolving nature of the digital landscape, these regulations are constantly under review.

Privacy-by-design tools that promote safe online practices in all spheres, including education, are going to become increasingly valuable. Educational institutions must deeply consider how they prioritize child protection within their technological ecosystems to appropriately respond to the pressing and evolving issue of child personal data protection.

To actively mitigate against present risks and prepare for future requirements, now is the time to implement systems that place privacy first.

How to protect student privacy

A recent article that highlighted this research also touched on 6 practical ways schools and school districts can better protect student privacy:

1.      Refrain from posting students’ full names to reduce the risk of students being identified

2.      Consider posting non-portraits photos that don’t clearly depict faces

3.      Ask parents to opt-in to sharing their child’s information, versus today’s ‘norm’ of opt-out

4.      Make it easy for parents to request that photos of their children be removed

5.      Educate parents about what information will be shared and how

6.      Consider making school or district pages private

Photos are an essential component of social media posts with an estimated 9.3 million posts published by U.S. schools containing one or more image. This highlights further how important it is for schools and school districts to invest in a privacy-driven student image management system that supports staff, students, and parents (not Facebook or Google).

At a typical cost of a laptop, a privacy by design platform delivers schools a privacy-driven solution year-on-year that empowers safer community-based content sharing and connectivity with all members in the community.

Traveling across the US

“The pixevety platform for photo-sharing has literally satisfied ALL our requirements! It’s super easy to navigate, the mobile app provides instant utility, and our faculty/staff have adopted it without any challenges. Once you log in on a laptop, you get a really great glimpse into the whole school, and the facial recognition feature is outstanding!”

Karen Tracy, Springside Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia

Our CEO, Colin Anson, joined me in late January in Orlando to attend the annual FETC event. We then made our way across the U.S. to visit our client schools. It was a very cold trip but the reception from our schools (and prospective schools) could not have been warmer and more welcoming. Thank you! You all know who you are 😊

Our school photo management platform – pixevety – was designed, built, and launched in Australia ten years ago, making its US debut in 2020. The experience of already having 100’s of schools already using the platform across Australasia made its natural introduction into the US very seamless.

Understanding the regulations of each state is a challenging proposition for any company, so we met with schools, technology partners and government officials to ensure we truly understood the US market situation and could introduce functionality that catered to the unique needs of schools on a state-by-state basis, especially when it came to the use of facial recognition technology. More on this topic here.

As pixevety has been built on world-class Privacy-by-Design technology (including the use of ethically driven facial recognition tools that can be switched on and off as required by state law), and with privacy at the core of the system, the platform’s transition into the US school environment has been done ensuring we meet all compliance needs, and at the same time, delivers an engaging platform for schools and their parent communities to safely enjoy every day for years to come.

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