South by south what??? SXSWedu 2016 Privacy Panels –privacy still matters

South by south what??? SXSWedu 2016 Privacy Panels –privacy still matters

SXSWedu is described as the conference to attend when it comes to tech and education. The events are fun, the parties can be a blast, and the innovation presented is often quite impressive. SXSWedu prides itself in bringing a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss everything and anything tech, education and lately – privacy. But to me, the bottom line is that really smart people attend SXSWedu to talk about education and technology. In education, privacy is a topic discussed and debated constantly and there were many panels focused on privacy at SXSWedu this year.

I wasn’t able to attend but I asked a couple of my privacy peeps to give me their perspective and summary of what they saw in the privacy panels they attended.


Elana Zeide, Research Fellow at New York University’s Information Law Institute, an Affiliate of the Data & Society Research Institute, and an Advisory Board member of the and iKeepSafe gave me her thoughts on the conference this year and what she saw as different from last year’s discussions. Below is her summary.

“The panels were more positive than last year, when much of the discussion was about warning vendors and educators about the dangerous consequences of poor privacy practices.”

“Many panelists also noted the potential for poorly crafted student privacy legislation to cripple core information flow in schools. For example, prohibitions on collecting biometric information impeded school obligations to students with special needs.”

“People were more aware of their responsibilities when collecting and handling student data.”

“The discussion was also much more focused on actual information privacy practices instead of education policy. People finally seem to understand that creating systems to ensure appropriate use of student data is separate from issues regarding standardized testing or the Common Core.”


Amelia Vance, Director of Education Data & Technology at the National Association of State Boards of  , created an awesome Storify on some of the privacy discussions of the conference. You can read her amazing recap for a summary of what the live panels focused on and where the “privacy trends” so to speak are headed.

The full storify is here –


Brenda Leong, Senior Counsel and Director of Operations at the Future of Privacy Forum participated in an interactive panel focused on discussions around trust. Brenda’s recap follows.

“I participated in a summit – which is longer and more interactive than a panel – on moving toward a “trust” model for ed tech companies in partnership with schools, particularly in terms of transparency and communication with parents.  It was led by CoSN (CoSN works on behalf of ed tech leaders nationwide and provides leaders with management, community building, and advocacy tools) and we ran interactive small group sessions with teachers, ed tech vendors, parents, and advocates to identify the key barriers to trust in various contexts, with follow-on discussions to propose solutions to overcome those barriers.  CoSN is putting out a school evaluation process which will include some of these ideas. One key point we all recognized was ‘how far we’ve come’ from SxSWEdu 2-3 years ago when everyone was just starting to realize privacy was a “thing” that needed to be addressed in the education context.  We all agreed that it’s great that it feels like we’ve passed beyond the “fear” factor and into the “data can be such a tool– let’s see what we can do with it!” perspective. (Of course still assuming we have appropriate protections in place.)”

Thanks to Elana, Amelia, and Brenda for providing insight into this year’s SXSWedu!




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