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Philippine university discusses safety of personal information in the digital age

An announcement from the Ateneo de Manila University highlighted how educational institutions should have principles and policies in place that will protect the personal information of students. Access and availability of information is made easier thereby improving the learning experience. However, maintaining the protection of personal data should also be given equal importance.

The present era is described by most people as the digital age or the information age. The term is apt given how information has become very accessible with the help of technology. Advancements in technology paved the way for the widespread use of the Internet since the end of the 20th century. It has changed the way humans live, including the way they obtain and distribute information.

Learning experiences in the academe have been boosted by the availability of new tools and techniques. Students and teachers alike own a tablet or a smartphone, all of which can access the Internet.

Gadgets can also host applications and software that assist in classroom management, student interaction and class presentation. Student and teacher life have been greatly improved by features like voice recording, uploading of lesson plans, class scheduling, digital gradebook, and the tracking of student progress.

Some schools have incorporated the use of these gadgets in their curriculum as a way to modernise their approach to education whereas other schools still give the teachers freedom to decide when it will be appropriate to utilise the use of these tools.

Indeed, the growing popularity is proof that the presence of these gadgets provided students, educators, parents and guardians with benefits that make life easier.

With the free flow of information occurring, it is important for schools and educators to remember their responsibility to protect the students, including their personal information. This role is sometimes overlooked and so there is a need to consistently remind everyone that even learning tools can pose risks if left unattended or used improperly.

Principles in securing personal information of students when using new technologies should be remembered.  Data should be used to promote and supplement student learning and success. Data should be used as a tool for informing, engaging, and empowering students, families, teachers, and school system leaders.

Timely access to information should be granted to students, families, and educators. Personal information of students must only be shared with service providers if it has a legitimate educational purpose and if subjected to clearly written terms of agreement.  

Consent must be obtained from a parent or guardian if the student is a minor. A student can only give consent if they are aged 18 and above. School systems should have policies for overseeing this process, including support and guidance for teachers.

Publicly available rules and guidelines regarding how student data is collected, used, protected and destroyed is a must for educational institutions and their contracted service providers, which include researchers. As a general rule, they should only have access to the minimum amount of information necessary to support and guarantee student learning.

All personnel with access to the personal information of students must undergo proper training in handling personal data effectively and ethically.

An educational institution with the authority to collect and maintain student personal information should have a system of governance that features rules and procedures. The institution should designate the individual or group responsible for deciding on issues that involved data collection, use, access, sharing, and security.

Having a policy for notification in the event that information is misused or breached, including the provision of any reliefs is essential. Schools should maintain a security process that follows widely-accepted industry best practices. Lastly, a point of contact must be designated from whom students and families can obtain information regarding their rights, as well as other clarifications.

Technological advancements and the data gathered are key factors in the improvement of learning. However, it is equally important to keep them under control to ensure the security of the data.

Data privacy guidelines and cybersecurity measures should be in place to make sure that any benefits people stand to gain from such technologies would not be at the expense of their safety and their rights.

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