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  • Caroline Keen

Sociodigital Matters: New Research Explores Privacy Implications of EdTech in NZ Schools

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

Call for teachers to take part in a new study: Dr Caroline Keen is conducting a new research project exploring the use of EdTech in NZ schools and its implications for student privacy.

Koha: A $40 food voucher is offered to participants

Some of you may think that privacy is dead in the digital world. It certainly looks challenging given the digitalisation of everything - business, commerce, government services and now education. I'm back this year continuing my research into children's privacy, but this time I am looking at how schools understand and protect children's privacy, with a special interest in commercial software services and educational technology applications in education.

EdTech in schools
Students increasingly use online learning programs

Most children today are digital by default, and parents are tasked with protecting children when they are online. However, when children attend school parents expect that they are safeguarded from harms, and this includes the digital environment. Traditionally, schools have provided safe environments sheltered from commercial interests, but with a rapid uptake in Educational Technologies, we have yet to fully comprehend what privacy risks might be attached to the use of these commercial software and applications within New Zealand schools. As education increasingly uses commercial providers to manage data across functions such as administration, management, assessment, and learning functions students are increasingly exposed to commercial actors. There is currently no clear governance of these risks.

We want to talk with teachers in New Zealand schools teaching years 7-13

Welcome to our research project aimed at exploring privacy awareness and protocols associated with Educational Technologies (EdTech) in New Zealand schools. This study is motivated by the urgent need to investigate the potential privacy risks posed to students in an increasingly digitalised education landscape. We are seeking the participation of teachers and school IT staff to gain valuable insights into the use of EdTech and its impact on student privacy.

Dr Caroline Keen’s previous research has looked at how parents and students understand privacy in the digital environment, and she is now seeking to understand how schools, teachers and IT staff understand children’s privacy in relation to now widely used educational technologies. This study is supported by funding from InternetNZ.

The Need for the Study

With the rapid integration of EdTech into classrooms it is crucial to assess its implications for student privacy. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital learning platforms and highlighted the potential risks of students’ increased exposure to privacy violations. Internationally there have been several high-profile studies examining EdTech which signal student privacy concerns. For those of you who want to look at this issue further here are some links to these resources.

Some governments have taken action to address student data privacy. For instance, a 2020 report by the Norwegian Consumer Council found that Google was still collecting excessive amounts of personal data from students in violation of GDPR, while a similar report by the Dutch government in 2019 found that Microsoft's Office 365 for Education was also collecting more data than necessary. These studies resulted in clarification of data collection by Google in their schools, and severe purpose limitation, increased transparency, and access for review of their data practices in schools.

Research on the privacy risks presented by EdTech in New Zealand schools is limited, making this study a vital first step toward filling the knowledge gap and developing heightened awareness of the privacy challenges posed by EdTech. While rights advocates and researchers overseas are addressing this issue there has been little effort in NZ to address what educational technologies are being embraced by schools and teachers, and how the issue of student data privacy is being addressed.

Have your say: We want to interview teachers and IT staff

We want to interview teachers, as well as staff responsible for software/IT management within schools. Your insights and experiences are invaluable in shaping a safer and more privacy-conscious digital learning environment. By participating you will contribute to a better understanding of the use of EdTech in New Zealand schools and its impact on student privacy and help create a safer educational landscape for all.

Interviewing over Zoom
Commercial software in education

Wix media stock

Zoom interviews at a time that is convenient for you!

The interview is a conversation which will take around an hour. All interviews will be conducted online and are recorded using Zoom’s audio-visual platform for the purposes of transcription and analysis. There will be a short survey to collect information about EdTech in your school. Through interviews, we aim to understand the level of awareness among teachers and IT staff regarding the potential privacy risks introduced by EdTech, and examining school data governance, consent mechanisms, and the implications of data processing and profiling in educational settings. By actively listening to the experiences and perspectives of participants, we seek to identify the specific risks and challenges posed by EdTech in relation to student privacy. These risks may include unauthorized data collection, potential commercial exploitation, algorithmic biases, and the implications of automated decision-making processes.

Raising Awareness, Informing Policy, and Practice

The findings of this study will contribute to a growing body of data around the use of EdTech in New Zealand schools. A report will be submitted to InternetNZ who provided funding for this research, and key insights will be posted on the Sociodigital Research website. Further publications may be generated for academic or public audiences, and links to these will be published on the Sociodigital Research website. Results will contribute to Dr Keen’s ongoing advocacy for student digital rights, and her continued work with the New Zealand Privacy Foundation where she is a member of the Working Group for Children’s Privacy.


A $40 food voucher will be sent to you after the survey and interview is completed.

Confidentiality and Ethical Considerations

Your information will be kept confidential, and any publication resulting from this research will not identify you by name. This project has been evaluated and judged to be low risk. A report will be available through InternetNZ.

Register for an interview now

To take part or seek further information please:

call Dr Caroline Keen on 027 275 8585 or

email or

register online here.

Together, let's strive for a safe and privacy-conscious educational system where students can benefit from the advantages of EdTech without compromising their personal information.


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