HRW raises concerns over EdTech products tracking SL children
Some Sri Lankan EdTech products had the capacity to surveil children in ways that risked or infringed on their rights, Human Rights Watch found.
Human Rights Watch raised concerns over the Nenasa app and e-Thaksalawa app used in Sri Lanka.
The overwhelming majority of education technology (EdTech) products endorsed by 49 governments of the world’s most populous countries and analyzed by Human Rights Watch appear to have surveilled or had the capacity to surveil children in ways that risked or infringed on their rights.
Human Rights Watch released technical evidence and easy-to-view privacy profiles for 163 EdTech products recommended for children’s learning during the pandemic.
Of the 163 products reviewed, 145 (89 percent) surveilled or had the capacity to surveil children, outside school hours, and deep into their private lives.
Sri Lanka was among countries that directly built and offered learning apps that may collect Android Advertising ID from children.
In doing so, these governments granted themselves the ability to track an estimated 41.1 million students and teachers purely for advertising and monetization.
An advertising ID is a persistent identifier that exists for a single use: to enable advertisers to track a person, over time and across different apps installed on their device, for advertising purposes. For those using an Android device, this is called the Android Advertising ID (AAID)
“Children, parents, and teachers were largely kept in the dark about the data surveillance practices we uncovered in children’s online classrooms,” said Hye Jung Han, children’s rights and technology researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch.
“By understanding how these online learning tools handled their child’s privacy, people can more effectively demand protection for children online.”
Few governments checked whether the EdTech products they rapidly endorsed during the Covid-19 pandemic were safe for children to use. Many governments put at risk or violated children’s rights directly.
Of the 42 governments that provided online education to children by building and offering their own EdTech products for use, 39 governments made products that handled children’s personal data in ways that risked or infringed on their rights.
Human Rights Watch found that the data surveillance took place in educational settings where children could not reasonably object to such surveillance.
Most companies did not allow students to decline to be tracked, and most of this monitoring happened secretly, without the child or their family’s knowledge or consent.