What is edtech?

The Common Sense Privacy Program evaluates popular education technology applications and services that are currently used by tens of millions of students in classrooms across the country. Education-related applications and services used in schools and districts include a wide range of educational technologies such as games and tools for communication, collaboration, formative assessment, student feedback, content creation, and delivery of instructional content. To effectively evaluate the policies of all these applications and services, a comprehensive assessment framework was developed based on existing federal and state law, as well as universal privacy and security principles. This framework incorporates over 150 privacy- and security-related questions that are commonly expected to be disclosed in vendors' policies in an educational context.

Why evaluate privacy?

In the past year alone, schools have been facing new challenges and privacy risks when it comes to balancing the power of online learning with the requirements of and concerns about online privacy. The Common Sense Privacy Program was created to champion student privacy and support educators, schools, and communities on a path toward a more secure digital future for all kids.

Educators can use our easy-to-understand privacy evaluations to make informed choices about the products they use at home and in the classroom and pass on that information to students and families using apps at home. Helpful summaries show how companies address safety, security, privacy, and compliance in their policies and terms of service. Privacy evaluations speed up the decision-making process so educators can find the most appropriate tools to use with students in the classroom and their daily lives.

What are our goals?

  • To give teachers the information they need to make informed choices about the learning tools they use with students.

  • To empower schools and districts to thoroughly assess technology products used in K–12 classrooms.

  • To collaborate with software developers to make sure their policies are transparent and comprehensive and created with kids' best interests in mind.

How are our privacy evaluations different?

Our evaluations are unique in several ways:

  • We read the policies. It's that simple. We are the only evaluators who read all of a product's policies and use a full 150-point privacy evaluation of that product's terms to provide a comprehensive evaluation. Many other evaluators do not provide an evaluation based on a product's actual privacy policy and/or only observe a product's privacy controls to try to determine whether it's safe to use.

  • We protect more than students. We primarily evaluate the privacy practices of edtech products currently used by children and students in schools and districts. Edtech applications and services intended for students pose unique privacy risks because of the sensitive personal information they can collect. However, we also evaluate whether a product's privacy practices have an impact on educators, district administrators, and parents, who, in many cases, use the product with their children or students. Many other evaluators focus only on how a product protects student information but do not evaluate whether privacy protections are available for other users of a product, such as educators and district staff.