UC Berkeley Celebrates Data Privacy Day

Posted by Alexa Rivetti, UCB Student Intern, UCOP. Decisions we make every day about our online footprint actually shape our digital privacy throughout the year. International Data Privacy Day, held on January 28, promotes awareness about making digital privacy our priority every day.

In recognition of Digital Privacy Day, about twenty UCB students joined a lively panel discussion, “Privacy and Student Analytics: Student Success or Student Surveillance?” to talk about privacy trends on campus.

Arjun Singh, co-founder of Gradescope, an app that helps professors grade assignments and view analytics, sat beside moderator, Lisa Ho, UCB chief privacy officer, and explained the difficulties a young edtech start-up faces when dealing with laws and expectations about student privacy. Singh and his colleagues do their best to deliver cutting-edge technology while making sure to not overstep boundaries. He believes that student data analytics should be shown first to students so they understand what is being shared with professors.

Jenn Stringer (pictured center), associate CIO for Academic Engagement, talked about a controversial decision by Oral Roberts University to require its students to wear Fitbit to track their physical health. One panelist noted that the Fitbit data could be used to make sure students weren’t staying out past curfew.

Student Technology Committee members Amber Norori (pictured left) and Spencer Brown (pictured second from left) stole the show with their incisive concerns. Norori said that having the option to analyze student data with apps like Gradescope or Piazza is worthwhile for many students, but may negatively affect self-esteem for some of her peers . She expressed concern that it may become the norm to give students the choice to “opt in” to some of these programs, which sometimes share data with potential employers. She said this practice may hurt job prospects for students who “opt out.” Brown said that he refused to allow Piazza to share his data with potential employers.

The audience was clearly riveted by the topic, demonstrating the need for continued discussion about privacy throughout the year.

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