The world has become increasingly digital, yet it’s ironic how most of us still give little thought to data privacy and how exactly our private information can be put at risk. Most might not be able to sort out which types of private and sensitive information that they need to guard to prevent identity theft, financial loss, reputational damage, and mental health issues. When it comes to children, inappropriate content, prying ads, and even unwitting exposure to strangers also pose damaging threats. Clearly, there is much room for everyone to grow and learn more when it comes to data privacy.
To create awareness about the importance of respecting privacy, safeguarding data, and enabling trust, Viber joins the rest of the world in marking Data Privacy Day, an international effort that takes place annually on 28 January. Because privacy is a guiding principle for Viber, the leading communications app wants to put emphasis on another aspect that data privacy impacts – the young learners.
The shift to online learning has ignited privacy concerns for students. With the COVID-19 outbreak necessitating the decision to move classes to digital platforms, pre-existing and fresh privacy issues have also emerged about the technology facilitating virtual education. As e-learning becomes more accessible than ever thanks to technological advancements as well as increasing internet reach, digital learners remain vulnerable to online privacy risks.
Now that the mad rush to get the transition off the ground has eased and as academic institutions and students settle into year three of online schooling, Viber believes there is an opportunity to direct more attention and evaluate how student privacy can be preserved and protected in the current e-learning reality.
“With more students getting online for their daily learning and even communication with their teachers, data privacy is paramount to both the students and their parents. And Viber’s commitment to championing privacy and our values to the education ecosystem remains a key focus for us in Sri Lanka,” says Rakuten Viber Senior Director for APAC David Tse.
Among the privacy problems that come with online education are the collection and possible use of students’ personal information, and using products and platforms that are not really designed for children. These platforms can potentially lack children’s privacy standards, and collect data on students as they would an adult consumer, which can then be used for commercial, for-profit purposes.
Students’ profiles collected during exchanges that are supposed to be educational can be used for behavioural or targeted advertising and are also making them more vulnerable to the same threats adult consumers face — identity theft, reputational damage, mental health issues, and more.
“There needs to be some kind of hindsight from this experience, a review on the current processes and rising concerns, and a way to move forward that puts less risks on young online learners,” adds Tse. “We see how due diligence plays a critical part in choosing online learning tools, from communication platforms to educational materials.”
There is indeed a great opportunity for academic institutions and teachers to work hand in hand with parents or guardians in creating an accessible online space where students can grow, learn, and thrive — all without compromising their data privacy and safety.