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Updated January 31, 2019

PhET Interactive Simulations

  • Privacy policies do not indicate a version or effective date.
  • Unclear whether data are sold or rented to third parties.
  • Unclear whether data are shared for advertising and/or marketing.
  • Unclear whether this product displays behavioral or contextual advertising.
  • Unclear whether this product allows data collection by third-party advertising or tracking services.
  • Unclear whether this product uses data to track and target advertisements on other third-party websites or services.
  • Unclear whether this product allows third parties to use data to create ad profiles, data enhancement, and/or targeted advertisements.
The criteria for "Use with Caution" are narrowly focused around data uses related to creating profiles that aren't related to any educational purpose, and using data to target ads. We include both first party (ie, the vendor that builds the service) and third party (any company given access by the vendor) data use. It's worth highlighting that using data to profile students violates multiple state laws, and in some cases also violates federal law.

A service can be designated "Use with Caution" for either a lack of transparency around data use -- which creates the potential for profiling and behavioral targeting -- or for clearly stating that they use data to target advertisements and/or create profiles. As with any application being considered for use within schools, school and/or district staff should review the privacy policies and terms of service to ensure that they meet the legal and practical requirements of their state laws and school policies.

As with the "Not Recommended" criteria, a "Use with Caution" designation is NOT a sign that a vendor is necessarily doing anything unethical or illegal. It is a sign that, based on publicly available policies,  we do not have adequate guarantees that data will not be used by first or third parties to create non-educational profiles or to target behavioral ads.
Use with Caution
Basic evaluation
A basic privacy evaluation answers key questions about a product's policies covering issues of safety, privacy, security, and compliance.
Overview

Engage in learning science and math with the award-winning PhET simulations. Whether understanding atoms, exploring energy, or mastering multiplication, there is a simulation for every learner. The policies of PhET Interactive Simulations by the University of Colorado are unclear as to whether any social interactions between users are possible on the platform, as well as whether any personal information can be displayed publicly to others. PhET's policies clearly state that the service collects personal information from users, but does not disclose whether the service may sell personal information or engage in targeted advertising. PhET's policies indicate that the service takes reasonable security measures to protect personal information, but do not provide sufficient details about the security practices used. The policies of PhET are clear that the service is intended for students, but do not disclose the methods by which the service obtains parental or school consent prior to the collection or disclosure of any student information.

PhET Interactive Simulations can be accessed through its website, and is available for download at the iOS App Store, and the Google Play Store. The Privacy Policy and Terms of Use used for this evaluation can be found on the University of Colorado’s website, iOS App Store, and the Google Play Store. This evaluation only considers policies that have been made publicly available prior to an individual using the application or service.

Read the Common Sense standard privacy report (SPR)arrow
The standard privacy report (SPR) displays the most important privacy practices from a product’s polices in a single easy-to-read outline. The report displays an alert when a particular privacy practice is risky, unclear, or not evaluated. This alert indicates more time should be focused on these particular details prior to use.
About Privacy Evaluations

The privacy evaluations have been designed with the help and support of a consortium of schools and districts across the United States. These evaluations are designed to streamline making an informed decision about the potential privacy implications of educational technology used to support teaching and learning.

Our core evaluation criteria are freely available and will remain freely available. People are encouraged to read the questions we use and the information security primer we released. Vendors are encouraged to use our questions and the information security primer to self-evaluate. You can also learn more about our evaluation process.

Please be in touch with any questions or feedback.