Online Learning Products Enabled Surveillance of Children

(New York) – The overwhelming majority of education technology (EdTech) products endorsed by 49 governments of the world’s most populous countries and analyzed by Human Rights Watch appear to have children supervising or having the ability to supervise in ways that endanger or infringe on their rights, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch has released technical evidence and easy-to-see privacy profiles for 163 EdTech products recommended for children’s learning during the pandemic.

Of the 163 products reviewed, 145 (89 percent) children supervised or had the ability to monitor them outside of school hours and deep into their private lives. Many products have been found to gather information about children, such as who they are, where they are, what they do in the classroom, who their family and friends are, and what kind of device their families can afford to use for online learning. . This evidence supports the May 25, 2022 report, “‘How dare they peek into my private life?’: Child rights violations by governments that endorsed online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Children, parents, and educators have been largely kept in the dark about the data sighting practices we have discovered in children’s online classrooms,” said Hye Jung Han, a child rights and technology researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch. “By understanding how these online learning tools have handled their child’s privacy, people can more effectively claim protection for children online.”

Few governments have checked whether the EdTech products they quickly endorsed during the Covid-19 pandemic are safe for children to use. Many governments have directly endangered or violated children’s rights. Of the 42 governments that provided online education to children by building and offering their own EdTech products for use, 39 governments created products that handled children’s personal data in ways that endanger or infringe on their rights.

Human Rights Watch found that the data surveillance took place in educational environments where children could not reasonably object to such surveillance. Most companies did not allow students to refuse to be tracked down, and most of this monitoring took place in secret, without the child or their family’s knowledge or consent. In most cases, it was impossible for children to withdraw from such supervision without giving up their formal education during the pandemic.

The evidence includes easy-to-see privacy profiles designed for parents, teachers and others to help them understand how government-recommended EdTech products may have handled children’s data and their privacy at the time of analysis. Human Rights Watch invites experts, journalists, policymakers and readers to test and engage with the data and technical evidence.

Human Rights Watch has launched a global campaign, #StudentsNotProducts, bringing together parents, teachers, children and allies to demand protection for children online.

“Children are priceless, not products,” Han said. “Governments need to adopt modern laws on the protection of child data and enforce them to stop the supervision of children by actors who do not have children’s best interests at heart.”

Related Posts