Data-driven decision making is gaining favor within organizations around the world, and the education sector is by no means exempt from the trend. However, privacy advocates have recently taken exception to the expanding scope of student data gathering seen in several American school districts.
As cybercriminals become more adept and discover new attack vectors, it is no longer just adults in the crosshairs. According to Huffington Post contributor Gerry Smith, child identity theft is growing at an alarming rate. Earlier in the year, one hacker infiltrated the network of an El Paso, Texas, school district, gaining entry into a database holding more than 60,000 student Social Security numbers. But perhaps more concerning, this event is likely just a drop in the bucket as schools around the country manage outdated IT infrastructure with constricted budgets.
There are also physical attacks to guard against. According to Smith, one North Carolina school system accidentally printed the Social Security numbers of more than 5,000 students on postcards circulated through a mass mailing initiative. Additionally, teachers and even law enforcement officials have been convicted of student identity theft in recent years.
As a result, many have come to question both the merits of student data collection and the quality of data management.
"This is making a much bigger honey pot for people with malevolent purposes to gain access to children's information," Fordham University School of Law professor Joel Reidenberg told the Huffington Post. "It's a meltdown waiting to happen."
Nonetheless, several school districts are undeterred by data security concerns and are expanding their information gathering efforts with the hope of inspiring crucial education reform and progress.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Board of Regents recently approved plans to build a database for tracking the academic behaviors of students across the state. The process was formerly halted by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli out of concern for privacy issues surrounding the initiative's technology partner and its open-source software. However, the promise of gauging student and teacher performance and potentially sharing best practices across state lines inspired officials to withdraw the hold.
There are signs that, if properly implemented, data collection strategies could move the education sector forward. The U.S. Department of Education has already praised Tennessee in particular for leveraging school data to improve public education statewide, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. However, it may soon be time for the federal agency to assert its presence in the matter and introduce more prescriptive standards for student data security.
Data Security News from SimplySecurity.com by Trend Micro