Tuesday, December 11, 2012

FIPPA and The Cloud: Issues for BC Schools

Former UBC Professor (now educational technology consultant) Tony Bates' blog article "Cloud-based educational technology and privacy: a Canadian perspective" (March 2011) turned up when I googled BC  +FIPPA +cloud.  A recent discussion of the pros and cons of cloud computing prompted my search.  What, amongst my findings, do you need to know?  If Tony Bates had concerns over a year ago, significant concerns about post-secondary students posting into the cloud, I need to know if he is any less concerned now and, if not, shouldn't we too be concerned?   

Bates was responding to a paper prepared by Victoria Klassen (2011) that expressly intends, in the post-secondary context, to "examine the tension between British Columbia’s privacy law and the use of social media, particularly those hosted on U.S. servers (which is the majority at the moment), but also would apply to data stored on other foreign servers (e.g. in India) that have less stringent privacy laws than British Columbia."  She writes:
The American Patriot Act allows the U.S. government to access social media content and the personally identifying information without the end users’ knowledge or consent.
The government of British Columbia, concerned with both the privacy and security of personal information, enacted a stringent piece of legislation to protect the personal information of British Columbians. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) mandates that no personally identifying information of British Columbians can be collected without their knowledge and consent, and that such information not be used for anything other than the purpose for which it was originally collected.
Aimed at the post-secondary readership, everything that would be of concern to universities and colleges would surely be of greater concern to BC schools.

Teachers concerned about how "the cloud" and the use of Web 2.0 and "cloud-based tools" create tensions for those responsible for teaching digital ethics and citizenship in schools might want to explore the topic more extensively:

I have no answers and remain concerned about uncritically embracing new vistas of technology. Here are some considerations:
  • "The Cloud" is information and data physically stored on "internet farms" in the US. (The term "the cloud" is misleading, isn't it?)
  • The influence of "the elephant" used to be an important educational issue!  (When did we start feeding bits of ourselves and our young to the elephant?)
  • British Columbians are uniquely guaranteed privacy and security of personal information.  Young Canadians have new protections for their intellectual property rights.  (How do we -- or should we -- respect students' rights to create their own digital tattoo ?)
  • Teachers with clear guidelines use technology with students and students' work but ensure the protection of students' privacy, security of personal information, and future well-being. (Isn't it a bit "cloudy" on this front?

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