The K-12 Privacy Policy Guide

Type: Toolkit
Topics: Advocacy & Policy, Student & Child Privacy, Technology & AI

May 14, 2024

How to Quickly Spot Red Flags

Using technology in classrooms can transform the learning experience and provide immense benefits for both students and educators. But before it’s used, it is imperative to ensure that our students’ information and privacy are protected.

One of the main steps to doing that is reviewing an app’s privacy policy before requesting approval to use it with your students. We understand that deciphering a privacy policy can be a hard task–privacy policies are often long, hard to read, and full of legalese. Furthermore, schools are often overwhelmed with requests to vet different technologies, many of which do not sufficiently protect student data. This resource is meant to help educators quickly find big problems in privacy policies that would likely restrict the tool from being used with students.

In this guide we list common "red flags" to look out for in privacy policies. This is not a comprehensive list of potential problems, but an overview of large issues that can be found in a quick, 5 minute scan of a policy. If any of these are in a privacy policy that you are reviewing, it is unlikely that it is appropriate to use that technology with your students. If that’s the case, you can always check or request if your school has or can enter into a separate privacy-protective contract with the technology company.

To help find potential red flags in privacy policies, we have listed "key search terms" that you can use to filter through the document you are reviewing. These search terms should help you quickly navigate through privacy policies by taking you directly to potential red flags.

This is only the first step in the technology vetting process.

After checking that the privacy policy does not contain the following red flags, teachers must follow their school’s official process for vetting technologies before using them with students. These policies and procedures tend to vary by school, so check to see if your school maintains a list of the technologies that have already been formally approved for use with students and to find out how to request that your school officially review other technologies.

Before you Begin

Does the service offer a product specifically for education? Many technology companies offer two versions of the same platform, one that is broadly directed to children and parents and one that is offered specifically for schools. If the technology you are considering offers an education specific platform, make sure you are reviewing the education specific privacy policy.


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Jessica Arciniega, Morgan Sexton and Amelia Vance
Public Interest Privacy Center

This resources was created by the Public Interest Privacy Center with generous support from Lightspeed Systems.