Cross-posted on the EdTech Strategies blog:

As quoted in:

Molnar, Michele. “Privacy Experts Assess Potential K-12 Fallout From Facebook’s Crisis of Trust.” Education Week. 21 March 2018.

“We’ve seen schools and districts use Facebook as a primary method of communication,” said Doug Levin, the founder and president of EdTech Strategies, LLC. They often do this to add interactivity to their websites, and to show their connection to the community, he said.

Although Facebook is offered for free, he cautioned that it comes at a price. “Privacy experts have long been concerned about schools pushing parents onto the third-party platforms that are based on selling advertising and user data,” he said.

In his recent report, Tracking: EDU—Education Agency Website Security and Privacy Practices, Levin discovered that “Facebook ad trackers were found on over 25 percent” of the 159 school websites he studied, and 10 state websites. Levin identified user tracking tools like Facebook Connect, a single sign-on app allowing users to interact on other websites through their Facebook accounts; Facebook Social Graph, and Facebook Social Plugins that facilitate deep integration with Facebook.

“This just makes it so much easier for Facebook to understand what the user is interested in, who else they know, and even where they are,” Levin said. In most cases, the districts’ website privacy policies did not acknowledge that sort of data sharing is occurring, and “it’s likely not appropriate for school districts to be embedding those sorts of third-party trackers on their sites,” he said.