Advocates Worldwide Call to Protect Children from Edtech Exploitation

LONDON / BOSTON – Today, 33 human rights and consumer groups from all over the world called on governments and the education sector to protect children from commercial exploitation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An estimated 90% of the world’s student population are affected by school closures. The signatories — organized by Defend digital me and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) — recognise that technology is playing a vital role worldwide in supporting learning and the delivery of school-home communication. 

In a joint statement, the advocacy groups propose actions to make sure that this global rush to deliver emergency instruction online does not undermine children’s rights, with lasting effects long after lockdowns are over.

The groups ask data protection authorities to co-operate globally to publish guidelines, monitor practice, and enforce compliance of e-learning platforms, children’s apps and other edtech. They urge policymakers to consider the impacts of the use of digital tools; to conduct and publish children’s rights’ and data protection impact assessments; and to ensure that staff, children, and families are given training with regard to privacy and security.

The coalition calls on decision makers to take responsibility for any products they procure or recommend, and to require companies to demonstrate that they uphold children’s rights as recognised by the United Nations, and offer a secure space for all children to access knowledge without commercial interference.

Jen Persson, Director, defenddigitalme:
“Making rights’ respecting choices now, and for our children’s future, depends on cooperation across the whole sector; and understanding for the local and international frameworks of law. This unplanned crisis is pushing schools in particular to free products, whose business models often rely on opaque ways of exploiting something else for profit: pupil or staff personal data, or advertising in-app products to children or parents. Privacy is not only a right we must protect, it is a practical necessity to the development and adoption of responsible online technology, for the good of society, and for keeping children safe.”

Josh Golin, Executive Director, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood:
“It’s inspiring how families and educators have stepped up to keep kids learning in this most difficult time. But we cannot trample children’s other critical rights in the rush to provide remote learning. Tech companies should not be allowed to use this crisis to mine even more of children’s sensitive data or to expose students to marketing messages masquerading as lessons.” 

Groups signing today’s letter were: Defend digital me; Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood; Access Now; Aspiration; Badass Teachers Association; Berkeley Media Studies Group; Biometrics-in-Schools; Bolo Bhi; Child Rights International Network (CRIN); Consumer Action; Consumer Federation of America; Corporate Accountability; Digital Rights Foundation; EDRi (European Digital Rights); Educadigital Institute – Open Education Initiative; Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) Inc.; Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC); El Instituto Panameño de Derecho y Nuevas Tecnologías (IPANDETEC); Instituto Alana; New Dream; Obligation, Inc.; Open Rights Group; Parent Coalition for Student Privacy; Parents Across America; Parents Together; P.E.A.C.E. (Peace Educators Allied For Children Everywhere); Privacy International; Privacy Salon; Public Citizen; Public Knowledge; TEDIC (The Association of Technology, Education, Development, Research, Communication); TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Childhood Entertainment); and Women Leading in AI Network.

Read the coalition’s letter here.

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Common Dreams


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