Emerging privacy concerns amidst online learning

Godfrey Elimian
*…knowing how to fully secure personal data in the midst of learning | *why certain online behaviours might cause harm to privacy
Online learning
Technext online learning and privacy photo

Amid recent developments and the resulting circumstance posed by the pandemic in 2020, many schools and institutions are planning to switch and some others already switched to online learning, teaching, conferencing and meetings resulting in a surge of users of conference platforms like Zoom, and Google meet.

For the already blooming online conference platforms, currently witnessing a skyrocketing trend of increasing downloads, usage and share price, more concerns ought to be raised on privacy issues, learning security and possible private data breach which have made some universities abroad and in Nigeria try to create their own platforms for the purpose of protecting their student’s data.

This piece tries to educate users of online conference platforms, especially students who have no choice but to use these apps and platforms, and teachers who do not know how to protect the data of their students, on the tips needed to protect their personal data and privacy.

Increasing risk of data breach

No doubt 2020 was a turbulent year which forced people in and had to adapt to the circumstances they were faced with which resulted in remote learning and remote meetings. And, as the number of hours spent in the front of the screen increased, so did the amount of private data left online; the most vulnerable of this group being young students and pupils of various ages.

Taking this fact into consideration, it is only imperative and logical to ask what can be done to protect the data of the young and learning members of the society as well as introducing them to safe online security practices. The question then becomes “how to secure personal data and privacy in online learning’?

How online data leaks

Understanding a bit of how personal online data works can sure help in understanding how this data can be stolen and manipulated. Search engines, websites, apps, and platforms all collect different data points.

And, while some do so only with the websites that have been visited before and maybe a local cookie deposit analysis, others may also collect data on what is being typed out, what elements our pics and videos collect, and possibly, although highly unlikely, biometric information on the voice and facial features once the camera is on. This is enough to make anyone wary, let alone a concerned parent

Although these data left online might not be attributed to a real person, sometimes, even, the sheer amount of such data makes it difficult to analyse, still, it doesn’t rule out the fact that although the identity of users might be protected initially, it gradually becomes unnecessary for it to be breached.

How to secure personal data

With the inception and working of algorithms that now hold the power to predict behaviours and suggest personalised content based on interests and interactions “clothed in logos and like buttons”, one is currently at its mercy, hence, what are the steps one can take to secure personal data and establish learning security?

These are some of the few examples of data protection e-learning that can be implemented.

Check with the school or the university

Most schools are obliged to protect the privacy of students and pupils to a certain degree. The issue is that online security develops so fast that the regulations may not be able to keep up since it can take months to introduce even the simplest of changes.

Its quite important to speak with the school representatives on what kind of protection the server ensures and the type of data it stores.

Read also: Google delists 17 apps from Play store for copying users phone numbers

Get to know your own computer

Regularly clearing cookies is not something most people do. Still, a simple few clicks can remove a lot of private data from your own device and make any future attacks on your data less successful. Installing a working antivirus software with a good privacy protection plug-in is a must for learning security online, and so is a firewall, which should be turned on at all times.

Another thing one needs to check is the terms of use of the apps used in accessing and learning online. You can find these online and usually from the program or the app itself. Take your time to go through this lengthy doc and prepare to contact the school if you notice anything suspicious. Being able to react preventatively can save a lot of headaches further down the road

Get to know your internet pages

Knowing that the pages you visit are secure is a piece of cake but can save you tons of worries later on. Always check for the padlock sign in the address bar in your browser. A locked or green padlock means the connection is secure. Furthermore, you can use a free plagiarism checker to check whether a similar (or the same) website exists. Simply copy-paste the entire page and see the results.

Have two emails

Using multiple emails is not a new thing. However, this old trick is perfect if you would like to segment areas of your online life. Many busy students use emails outside of their university- assigned email. They can use reliable paper writing service, and leaving traces at the university email can lead to a lot of problems. Even if you use this service for simple study notes, it is best to preserve your privacy.

In the new era of e-learning, security should be of utmost priority and be treated important. The world, app developers must invest into educating the users of their apps, especially students friendly apps which have tendencies to exhibit complexities in manual data protection by their young ones.


Inspired by Donald Fomby (@don_fom)


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