Saturday, February 20, 2010

MyNotes - Google Docs Does Not Violate CIPA (or COPPA*)

Thanks to Dr. Mark Wagner for writing a blog entry about GoogleDocs not violating CIPA or COPPA. But if you're not convinced already, I fear that you won't be by his words.
    • Google Docs Does Not Violate CIPA (or COPPA*)
    • The most important thing is to understand this: not having control over documents doesn’t constitute a violation of CIPA. Not having control over an online document doesn’t make Google Docs a violation of CIPA any more than not having control over a pen and paper makes spiral bound notebooks a violation of CIPA.It’s actually more or less irrelevant to the law.
    • CIPA does require that school districts filter the internet to protect students from content that is “harmful to minors” (and the primary concern is porn). The key is that schools need to show due dilligence in blocking sites they know are “harmful.” There is no expectation that schools will block “anything that could possiblly or potentially be inappropriate.”
    • CIPA (and the related FCC regulations) do require that there is a process in place for adults to unblock legitimately educational sites… and one of the only reasons that CIPA has not been struck down in the courts is due to the ease of unblocking a site using filtering software.
    • COPPA forbids Google from collecting profile information for users under 14 years old. So younger students should not be using any Google tool, including Google Docs, that requires them to log in with a Google Account. This is because Google has no mechanism for collecting “verifiable parent consent” for student profile information. However, school districts excell at collecting “verifiable parent consent” – we call this permission slips. So, if you set up Google Apps: Education Edition, collect parent consent for students to use it, and control the student accounts yourselves, you’re in good shape with respect to COPPA.
    • For students 14 and over, you’re legally fine having them use Google Docs – and despite the fact that Google’s terms of service say users need to be of legal age to enter into a contract, which i 18 in California, Google does encourage the use of their products with students aged 14-18.)
    • With respect to archiving documents for public disclosure: Use of Google Docs for teaching and learning is no different than using spiral bound notebooks, photocopied assignments, or ordinary blackboards. In fact, I’d say the online documents are generally better archived than anything a district can ordinarily pull off in the classroom… particularly with the history of revisions. In any case, if districts are not concerned about “archiving” handwritten student essays on paper, I don’t see why Google Docs would be any different. We’re talking about instruction here, not district business. It’s important to remember the difference.
    • Mark Wagner, Ph.D

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Brian B said...

Miguel, thanks for posting this - my district is just about to get into the issue with our Google Apps for Education and a possible decision to take it down into the intermediate and middle school grades (we initially thought we would use it with the high school students only). I was thinking about COPPA as soon as the idea of taking it to the lower grades even entered my mind.

Brian B.

Reggie Ryan said...

There seems to be so much ambiguity on this topic. We're a K-8 district that is using a Google Edu Apps domain we've got. We control the domain and uer accounts, and have put restrictions on tools (no email for example). We also use such tools as Voicethread.

We are constantly evaluating new web 2.0 tools- of which many require some sort of user account.

It seems that either, as a district leader, you promote these tools and hope you are not putting the district in a bind (and guessing), or block them all.

If you talk to a lawyer, many simply say ban them all. Not very progressive.

Rocketrob said...

I don't see an issue with Docs per say, but what the collaborative environment of docs is greatly hampered without the email portion.

We use both in a 7-12 setting, but with parent consent in hand, I see no reason why one couldn't use both.

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