With big data invading campus, universities risk unfairly profiling their students

Evan Selinger:

Privacy advocates have long been pushing for laws governing how schools and companies treat data gathered from students using technology in the classroom. Most now applaud President Obama’s newly announced Student Digital Privacy Act to ensure “data collected in the educational context is used only for educational purposes.”

But while young students are vulnerable to privacy harms, things are tricky for college students, too. This is especially true as many universities and colleges gather and analyze more data about students’ academic — and personal — lives than ever before.

Jeffrey Alan Johnson, assistant director of institutional effectiveness and planning at Utah Valley University, has written about some of the main issues for universities and college students in the era of big data. I spoke with him about the ethical and privacy implications of universities using more data analytics techniques.
Recommended: Do you have a clue about teenage behavior? Take our quiz!

Edited excerpts follow.
Test your knowledge Do you have a clue about teenage behavior? Take our quiz!
Photos of the Day Photos of the weekend

Selinger: Privacy advocates worry about companies creating profiles of us. Is there an analog in the academic space? Are profiles being created that can have troubling experiential effects?