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Privacy Evaluation for Turnitin

Last updated August 17, 2020

Overview

Turnitin provides instructors with the tools to engage students in the writing process, provide personalized feedback, and assess student progress over time. Turnitin merges originality checking, online grading, and peer review into a single service. Turnitin's policy notes that it may (but is not obligated to) monitor areas of the site for user communications, such as chat rooms, bulletin boards, and other user forums. Turnitin explains that it does partner with a third party to manage its advertising on other sites, and that its third-party partner may use technologies such as cookies to gather information about user activities on this site in order to provide targeted advertising based upon the user's browsing activities and interests. On a positive note, Turnitin's policy claims that it complies with the relevant security standards of the US, EU and Switzerland. Lastly, Turnitin's policy states COPPA’s requirements do not apply to its services and therefore it is not required to get prior verifiable parental consent before collecting or maintaining personal data.

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

Safety

Turnitin's policy indicates that it includes social media features, such as the Facebook “Like” button, the “Share This” widget, or interactive mini-programs that run on its site. Publicly visible personal information is possible, as Turnitin reserves the right to reproduce, transmit, display, disclose, and otherwise use user communications on the site or elsewhere for its business purposes. The company states that it retains the right to remove, at its discretion, communications that include any material deemed abusive, defamatory, obscene, or otherwise inappropriate. Turnitin's policy notes that it may (but is not obligated to) monitor areas of the site for user communications, such as chat rooms, bulletin boards, and other user forums.

Privacy

Turnitin notifies users that among the information processed is personal data such as name, email address, job title, and school. Its policy explains that Turnitin and its partners may use cookies or similar technologies to analyze trends, administer the site, track users’ movements around the site, and gather demographic information about the user base as a whole. Turtitin's policy states that if at any point they decide to use personal data in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, they will notify you via e-mail, and then the user will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. Turnitin states that it does not sell user personal data to third parties and they do not serve ads on the site. However, Turnitin explains that it does partner with a third party to manage its advertising on other sites, and that its third-party partner may use technologies such as cookies to gather information about user activities on this site in order to provide targeted advertising based upon the user's browsing activities and interests.

Security

Turnitin's policy claims that it complies with the relevant security standards of the US, EU and Switzerland. The program requires users to log into an account using a username and password for security purposes. Turnitin's policy states that if they transfer personal data to a third party, they will require that the third party agree to confidentiality requirements, and applicable legal requirements. The policy doesn't specifically address transit encryption, but says that data is stored in the EU or USA with robust physical, digital, and procedural safeguards in place to protect users' personal data, including the use of SSL encryption, redundant servers and data centers, and sophisticated perimeter security. Turnitin's policy also claims that its data breach notification policy is GDPR compliant.

Compliance

Turnitin's policy notes that parental consent or the consent of a guardian is required for a minor to set up an account with Turnitin, and that COPPA does not apply to its product because COPPA’s requirements do not apply to sites that contract with schools to offer online programs for the benefit of the schools and their students, and collect personal data only for these purposes. Therefore, Turnitin states that its services are not required to get prior verifiable parental consent before collecting or maintaining personal data.

Turnitin explains that at any time, a user can access, update, rectify or erase any personal data by logging into the user's account and clicking “User Info” or contacting Customer Support. According to its policy, universities are free to inspect or audit Turnitin's services any time. Lastly, Turnitin's terms state they are obligated under FERPA to remain under the direct control of the education institution with respect to their use and maintenance of student data that is part of a student's education record.

Data Collection
SCORE: 40%

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.
  • Interactions, behaviors, or usage analytics data are collected.
  • Unclear whether this product collects sensitive data.
  • Data is automatically collected.
  • Unclear whether opt-in consent is requested from users at the time personal information is collected.
  • Personal information of users is collected by a third party.
Data Sharing
SCORE: 70%

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.
  • Unclear whether the categories of third parties that receive data are indicated.
  • Data are shared for analytics.
  • Data are shared for research and/or product improvement.
  • Third-party services are used to support the product.
  • The roles of third-party service providers are indicated.
  • Unclear whether this product supports third-party login.
  • Contractual limits are placed on third-party data use.
Data Security
SCORE: 75%

How does it secure data?

  • A user's identity is verified with additional personal information.
  • Account creation is required.
  • Managed accounts are available.
  • Unclear whether multi-factor account protection is available.
  • Unclear whether third-parties with access to information are required to provide the same security protections as the company.
  • Reasonable security practices are used to protect data.
  • Employee or physical access to user information is limited.
  • All data in transit are encrypted.
  • All data are stored in an encrypted format.
  • Notice is provided in the event of a data breach.
Data Rights
SCORE: 65%

What rights do I have to the data?

  • Users can create or upload content.
  • Users retain ownership of their data.
  • Processes to access or review user data are available.
  • Processes to modify data are available for authorized users.
  • A data-retention policy is available.
  • Unclear whether authorzied users can delete data.
  • Unclear whether a user's data are deleted upon account cancellation or termination.
  • Data are deleted when no longer necessary.
  • Methods are available to restrict who has access to data.
  • Unclear whether this product provides users the ability to download their data.
Data Sold
SCORE: 35%

Is the data sold?

  • Personal information is not sold or rented to third parties.
  • Users can opt out from the disclosure or sale of their data to a third party.
  • Unclear whether user information can be transferred to a third party in the event of a merge, acquisition, or bankruptcy.
  • 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.
  • Unclear whether third-party transfers are contractually required to use the same privacy practices.
  • Unclear whether user information that is shared is shared in an anonymous or de-identified format.
  • Unclear whether the company describes their de-identification process of user information.
  • Data are shared for research and/or product improvement.
  • Unclear whether contractual limits prohibit third parties from reidentifying or de-identified information.
Data Safety
SCORE: 40%

How safe is this product?

  • Users can interact with trusted users.
  • Unclear whether users can interact with untrusted users, including strangers and/or adults.
  • Profile information must be shared for social interactions.
  • Personal information can be displayed publicly.
  • Users cannot control how their data are displayed to others.
  • Unclear whether user-created content is reviewed, screened, or monitored by the company.
  • User-created content is not filtered for personal information before being made publicly visible.
  • Unclear whether social interactions between users are moderated.
  • Unclear whether social interactions of users are logged.
  • Users can report abuse or cyberbullying.
Ads & Tracking
SCORE: 40%

Are there advertisements or tracking?

  • Personal information is shared for third-party marketing.
  • Traditional or contextual advertisements are displayed.
  • Unclear whether this product displays personalised advertising.
  • Data are collected by third-parties for their own purposes.
  • User's information is used to track and target advertisements on other third-party websites or services.
  • Data profiles are created and used for personalised advertisements.
  • Unclear whether this company can send marketing messages.
  • Unclear whether this company provides promotional sweepstakes, contests, or surveys.
  • Users can opt out of contextual, or personalised advertising.
  • Users cannot opt out or unsubscribe from marketing communications.
Parental Consent
SCORE: 35%

Can I provide parental consent?

  • Intended for children under 13.
  • Personal information from children under 13 years of age is collected.
  • Unclear whether intended for parents or guardians.
  • Unclear whether company has actual knowledge that personal information from users under 13 years of age is collected.
  • The company does not provide a section, heading, or separate policy for children in their policies.
  • Parental consent is required before personal information is collected or disclosed.
  • Unclear whether this product limits parental consent with respect to third parties.
  • Unclear whether this product allows parents to 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.
  • Parental consent notice and method for submission are provided.
School Purpose
SCORE: 75%

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.
  • Processes to enter education records into the product are described.
  • Unclear whether additional rights or protections may be provided with an additional school contract.
  • Company is designated as a school official.
  • Parental consent obligations are transferred to the school or district.
Individual Control
SCORE: 85%

Can I control the use of my data?

  • Users can control the use of their information through privacy settings.
  • Use of information is limited to the purpose for which it was collected.
  • The context or purpose for which data are collected is indicated.
  • Company may combine data with additional data from third-party sources.
  • Unclear whether this product treats combined information as personally identifiable information (PII).
  • Notice is provided if the context in which data are collected changes.
  • Consent is obtained if the practices in which data are collected change.
  • A grievance or remedy mechanism is available for users to file a complaint.
  • Users can request to know what personal information has been shared with third parties.
  • Notice is provided in the event the company receives a government or legal request for a user's 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.