When applied to education, big data provides effective ways to plan instruction, determine each student’s specific needs, and understand the best way to address them. But while big data tools offer many ways to improve teaching and learning, the reams of personally identifiable information collected could also be misused for commercial or even fraudulent purposes if not properly secured.
In its report “Safeguarding Student Privacy (PDF),” the U.S. Department of Education notes that while the use of data is vital to ensuring the best education for children, the benefits of using that data must be balanced with the need to protect students’ privacy rights.
“Students and their parents should expect that their personal information is safe, properly collected and maintained, and that it is used only for appropriate purposes and not improperly re-disclosed,” the report states. “It is imperative to protect students’ privacy to avoid discrimination, identity theft or other malicious and damaging criminal acts. All education data holders must act responsibly and be held accountable for safeguarding students’ personally identifiable information — from practitioners of early learning to those developing systems across the education continuum and from schools and their contractors.”