Common Sense releases platform to test privacy of apps


A leading education nonprofit is giving schools a tool that evaluates the security of edtech apps.

Common Sense Education, which works with more than 100,000 schools around the country to ensure that all children have the technology to thrive, has collaborated with more than 70 schools and districts to create a K-12 Edtech Privacy Evaluation Platform.

The announcement came on the second day of ISTE, a leading edtech conference that draws thousands of teachers, administrators and technology directors. The Consortium for School Networking and Future for Privacy Forum also have released their own privacy guidelines to help teachers navigate uncharted territory.

“Evaluating the privacy and security practices of educational software is a daunting task for most schools and districts, but it doesn’t have to be,” James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense, said in a statement. “Common Sense has developed a comprehensive, centralized and free resource to help an education community that is spread out across the country learn from each other and make more informed decisions about protecting student privacy.”

The system provides an analysis of strengths and potential risks of apps and their privacy policies, allowing educators to test the software they use.

Each app must undergo four tests – transparency, qualitative, summary and overall evaluation – for the analysis to be complete. The four tests are intended to classify policy transparency and clarify strengths and weaknesses.

The platform was created after school districts, including Fairfax County Public Schools and Houston Independent School District, approached Common Sense in 2014 about how to navigate student privacy.

The tool was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

“It is a challenge for educators to keep up with all of the new and exciting digital tools being developed for the classroom,” said Beatriz Arnillas, director of IT and education technology for Houston Independent School District. “The privacy evaluation tool is going to help us make quicker and more informed decisions.”

Reach the reporter at and follow her on Twitter @buuukky.