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Privacy Evaluation for Newsela

Last updated June 27, 2020

Overview

Newsela is an online news-as-literacy platform that features current, high-interest articles on everything from current events to myths and legends. All articles are Common Core-aligned and available in five Lexile levels, ranging from third to 12th grade and include quizzes and writing prompts. The terms do not specifically address whether social interactions are available or whether personal information can be made publicly visible. In addition, the terms state that Newsela may create advertisements shown to teachers and administrators that reflect the interests and capabilities of their students, and communicate with teachers and administrators about promotions and other news about products offered by Newsela. The terms of Newsela state that the transmission of data is encrypted and that reasonable security steps are taken to release information only to third parties who are capable of maintaining the confidentiality, security, and integrity of the information. Lastly, the terms state Newsela is intended to be used by children of all ages and to the extent required by FERPA, the service requires that each school notify a student's parents or legal guardians of their child's use of the service.

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

Safety

The terms do not specifically address whether social interactions are available or whether personal information can be made publicly visible. However, teachers are in control of student accounts, access, and assignments. In addition, the terms of Newsela state that student personal information is only used to provide the service and is not shared with third parties for other purposes.

Privacy

According to the terms of Newsela, children under 13 years of age cannot create their own accounts which are created and controlled by their teacher. Personal information collected by the service includes first and last name, country, postal code, email address, username, password, and other information, including demographic information and details about the classroom, school, and students. The terms state that Newsela may create advertisements shown to teachers and administrators that reflect the interests and capabilities of their students, and communicate with teachers and administrators about promotions and other news about products offered by Newsela. However, the terms further specify Newsela never directs targeted advertising at children and Newsela adheres to the Digital Advertising Alliance Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising.

Security

The terms of Newsela state that the transmission of data is encrypted and that reasonable security steps are taken to release information only to third parties who are capable of maintaining the confidentiality, security, and integrity of the information. The terms further state Newsela will rely on instructions that they reasonably believe are given by a teacher, parent or legal guardian in connection with a student. However, the terms do not disclose whether notice is provided in the event of a data breach.

Compliance

The terms state Newsela is intended to be used by children of all ages and to the extent required by FERPA, the service requires that each school notify a student's parents or legal guardians of their child's use of the service. According to the terms, anyone under the age of 13 may not register for a learner account and can only use the services if a teacher, parent or administrator provides them with a student account. The terms further state that the service allows a teacher or parent to access, modify, or delete student information and may prohibit Newsela from disclosing a child's personal information to a third party. Lastly, the terms state that a student’s personal information will be retained only as long as is reasonably necessary to fulfill the purpose for which the information was collected.

Data Collection
SCORE: 55%

What data does it collect?

  • Personally identifiable information (PII) is collected.
  • The categories of collected personally identifiable information are indicated.
  • Collection or use of data is limited to product requirements.
  • Unclear whether this product collects geolocation data.
  • Unclear whether this product collects biometric or health data.
  • Behavioral data are collected.
  • Sensitive data are collected.
  • Non-personally identifiable information is collected.
  • Combined information is treated as personally identifiable information (PII).
  • Personal information from children under 13 years of age is collected online.
Data Sharing
SCORE: 90%

What data does it share?

  • Collected information is shared with third parties.
  • The categories of information shared with third parties are indicated.
  • The purpose for sharing a user's personal information with third parties is indicated.
  • Use of information is limited to the purpose for which it was collected.
  • Data are shared for analytics.
  • Data are shared for research and/or product improvement.
  • Data are shared with third-party service providers.
  • The roles of third-party service providers are indicated.
  • Social or federated login is supported.
  • Contractual limits are placed on third-party data use.
Data Security
SCORE: 50%

How does it secure data?

  • A user's identity is verified with additional personal information.
  • Account creation is required.
  • Parental controls or managed accounts are available.
  • Unclear whether two-factor account protection is available.
  • Third-party contractual security protections are not required.
  • Industry best practices are used to protect data.
  • Unclear whether this product limits employee or physical access to user information.
  • All data in transit are encrypted.
  • Unclear whether this product encrypts all data at rest.
  • Unclear whether this product provides notice in the event of a data breach.
Data Rights
SCORE: 60%

What rights do I have to the data?

  • Unclear whether opt-in consent is requested from users at the time personal information is collected.
  • Unclear whether users can control their information through privacy settings.
  • Users can create or upload content.
  • Users do not retain ownership of their data.
  • Processes to access and review user data are available.
  • Processes to modify inaccurate data are available.
  • A data-retention policy is available.
  • Processes for the school, parents, or students to delete data are available.
  • Processes to delete user data are available.
  • Unclear whether this product provides users the ability to download their data.
Data Sold
SCORE: 65%

Is the data sold?

  • Data are not sold or rented to third parties.
  • Users can opt out from the disclosure or sale of their data to a third party.
  • User information can be transferred to a third party.
  • Unclear whether users are notified if their information is transferred to a third party.
  • Unclear whether user information can be deleted prior to its transfer to a third party.
  • Third-party transfer is contractually required to use the same privacy practices.
  • User information is shared in an anonymous or deidentified format.
  • The vendor describes their deidentification process of user information.
  • Data are shared for research and/or product improvement.
  • Contractual limits do not prohibit third parties from reidentifying deidentified information.
Data Safety
SCORE: 35%

How safe is this product?

  • Users can interact with trusted users and/or students.
  • Unclear whether users can interact with untrusted users, including strangers and/or adults.
  • Unclear whether profile information is shared for social interactions.
  • Personal information is not displayed publicly.
  • Unclear whether this product allows users to control how their data are displayed.
  • User-created content is not reviewed, screened, or monitored by the vendor.
  • Unclear whether user-created content is filtered for personal information before being made publicly visible.
  • Social interactions between users are moderated.
  • Unclear whether social interactions of users are logged.
  • Unclear whether users can report abuse or cyberbullying.
Ads & Tracking
SCORE: 55%

Are there advertisements or tracking?

  • Data are not shared for third-party advertising and/or marketing.
  • Traditional or contextual advertisements are displayed.
  • Behavioral or targeted advertising is displayed.
  • Data are collected by third-party advertising or tracking services.
  • Data are used to track and target advertisements on other third-party websites or services.
  • Data profiles are created and used for data enhancement, and/or targeted advertisements.
  • The vendor can send marketing messages.
  • Unclear whether this vendor provides promotional sweepstakes, contests, or surveys.
  • Users cannot opt out of traditional, contextual, or behavioral advertising.
  • Users can opt out or unsubscribe from marketing communications.
Parental Consent
SCORE: 60%

Can I provide parental consent?

  • Intended for children under 13.
  • Intended for parents or guardians.
  • Vendor does have actual knowledge that personal information from users under 13 years of age is collected.
  • Children's privacy is applicable.
  • Unclear whether this product indicates COPPA parental consent exceptions.
  • Unclear whether this product requires parental consent.
  • Parental consent is limited with respect to third parties.
  • Parents can withdraw consent for the further collection of their child's information.
  • Unclear whether this product deletes children's personal information if collected without parental consent.
  • Unclear whether this product provides parental consent notice and method for submission.
School Purpose
SCORE: 65%

Is the product intended for school?

  • Intended for students.
  • Personal information or education records are collected from preK-12 students.
  • Intended for teachers.
  • Product is primarily used by, designed for, and marketed toward students in grades preK–12.
  • Product does create education records.
  • Notification of a contract or additional rights is not provided.
  • Vendor is designated as a school official.
  • Parental consent obligations are transferred to the school or district.
  • Unclear whether the vendor indicates FERPA parental consent exceptions.
  • Unclear whether this product discloses directory information.

Common Sense Standard Privacy Report (SPR)

The standard privacy report (SPR) displays all the privacy practices from a product's policies in a single, easy-to-read outline. The report shows a green check mark for better privacy practices and an orange alert for risky or unclear practices. This alert indicates that 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 help educators make informed decisions about the potential privacy implications of educational technology used to support teaching and learning.

Our core evaluation criteria will always be freely available. People are encouraged to read the questions we use and our information security primer. 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.