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A new report has revealed that a staggering 96 percent of educational apps that children use in American schools share personal information with third parties, typically without the knowledge or consent of the users or the schools.

The report, conducted by the nonprofit software safety group Internet Safety Labs, says that “most apps used by K12 students are unsafe for children.”

The group tested 1,357 school-commissioned or privately developed edtech (educational technology) apps, covering 455,000 students in 663 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The collected data about children and their families can be used by technology providers, marketers, and advertisers to create “highly targeted and persuasive advertising or opinions” aimed at these users. This abuse of access can also put children at risk of “emotional trauma, aberrant seduction or even physical danger,” the report warns.

“Do Not Use” apps

Internet Safety Labs created a safety scoring rubric, evaluating factors such as automated data gathering, buried sharing routines, and network traffic sharing. An app is labeled “Do Not Use” if it contained advertising or embedded data-gathering software, or shared information with big tech companies that rely on advertising revenue.

78% of the apps tested were classified under that category. Another 18% of apps were classified “High Risk”—apps that have similar, albeit less severe, violations.

The organization also found that 68% of the apps were observed sending data to Google. This isn’t surprising as 75% of schools that provide personal computing devices to students use Chromebooks or Chrome tablets.

This revelation comes on the heels of E.U.-wide concerns over lax data protection in schools. The Dutch data protection authority banned Google tech in education unless the tech giant resolves these concerns.

These education apps are “monetizing your data, selling it to data brokers that are building these ever-growing portfolios on you,” said Internet Safety Labs executive director Lisa LeVasseur in an interview with Education Week. 

LeVasseur added, “You really have to scrutinize this stuff. And you have to vendor manage. You have to get in there and demand a lot more information.”

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