Group pushes for student privacy rights in e-learning

MANILA – A group of public and private universities on Wednesday issued set of guidelines to help schools on how to protect the privacy rights of students during online learning amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Data Privacy Council Education Sector (DPCES), through its Advisory No. 2020-01, published its guide for adequate data protection in the conduct of online learning and other related activities for schools, other educational institutions, and other stakeholders in the education sector.

“This document is meant to be a set of recommendations and shall not be treated as some type of policy. Each educational institution retains the prerogative to decide on the measures it shall deem appropriate for its context,” the advisory read.

The advisory details how to properly use learning management systems (LMS) and online productivity platforms (OPP) — online or offline software for the management and implementation of e-learning or online learning.

It also provides insight on how to use unofficial supporting tools for e-learning, the proper use of social media, publication of information, storage of personal data, use of webcams and recording videos of online discussions, online proctoring, and data security.

Among these areas of concerns, it said that webcams should be optional aside from requiring the consent of a student’s parent or guardian before allowing webcam-supported online sessions.

“When the student is a minor, consider having the parent or legal guardian present during these recorded classes or sessions,” the advisory read.

It said students’ personal data, such as grades or results of assignments, must only be seen by its intended recipients while ensuring that the submission of data is carried out in a safe and secure manner.

The group also cautioned schools on using social media, noting that sharing personal data, such as photos or videos of students, must always have a “legitimate purpose.”

National Privacy Commission chairman Raymund Liboro, in a statement, supported the DPCES’ advisory, noting that online learning must adhere to the Data Privacy Law like everything else online.

“Educational institutions must choose an online learning platform with the best security features and one that is most capable of protecting students’ privacy. Consider if the platform meets the requirements of the Data Privacy Act before letting students use them,” Liboro said.

The advisory was drafted by several members of the DPCES — San Beda University, De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines-Manila, University of the Philippines-Cebu, Technological University of the Philippines, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, University of Perpetual Help-Dalta, University of Santo Tomas-Legazpi, Central Mindanao University, Laguna State Polytechnic University and Ateneo de Iloilo.

Launched by the NPC in 2018, the Data Privacy Council is a stakeholder approach for the promotion of data privacy across all sectors and is tasked with collaborating with the NPC in the creation of privacy codes that cater to the specific needs of every sector. Raymond Carl Dela Cruz /