An online learning tool collected student data during the pandemic

A government-recommended e-learning tool for schools to use during the pandemic has harvested thousands of student data, The Telegraph can reveal.

Edpuzzle, a video quiz website and app aimed at children as young as five, monitored students as they used it for education.

The technology, which was being used by more than 1,000 schools in Britain at the start of this year, was criticized for not making it clear it was collecting the data – which included their mouse and keyboard activity .

Edpuzzle was recommended by the Department for Education (DfE) during the pandemic when online learning was compulsory for schoolchildren.

It allows teachers to add quiz questions to online videos and use student responses to track their progress.

The company confirms the follow-up of the students

On Tuesday evening, the company confirmed that students were being monitored while using the technology and that certain third parties had access to the information held.

However, he insisted that the data was only used for Edpuzzle’s own business purposes and that the information was not sold to third parties.

The company is now facing calls to delete all children’s data.

Chi Obwurah, Labor MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and Shadow Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “Parents and children should have rights when it comes to the collection and storage of children’s data. .

“If it has been collected without permission from parents and children, it should be deleted.”

The revelation that children’s data was collected will fuel fears about transparency and whether the government did not carry out checks before approving companies.

“The DfE should not be recommending products until they set regulatory standards,” said Baroness Kidron, the interbank counterpart.

“Can you imagine the DfE recommending playground equipment that does not meet any safety standard? Of course not.”

Global survey on the extent of online child surveillance

The revelation is part of a major international investigation by Human Rights Watch (HRW), seen by The Telegraph, which exposes the extent of surveillance of children by online programs around the world when schools were forced to close due to covid.

The Telegraph and 12 other international media organizations from The Signals network – including The Washington Post (US), El Mundo (Spain) and The Globe and Mail (Canada) – have been granted exclusive access to HRW’s EdTech Exposed study which analyzed 164 products in 49 countries.

There is no data on how many pupils used Edpuzzle in 2020 and 2021, but in the first three months of this year over 4,000 teachers in 1,600 schools in Britain used the program.

‘Advertising trackers’ identified

Edpuzzle’s technical analysis – conducted by HRW and verified by experts – claimed that the site uses four third-party “ad trackers”, which collect information about a person’s actions when visiting a website, even if there is no advertisement on the page. .

“Ad trackers in Edpuzzle software are either by design or by mistake, neither is good,” said Dr. Velislava Hillman, an edtech expert at the London School of Economics.

“Companies like Edpuzzle need to make sure their privacy policy is clear.

“It would be easy for schools or parents not to understand that data is being collected here.”

Besides short-term privacy concerns, experts warn that online monitoring of school performance could affect a child’s long-term prospects, for example, a loan or job application.

Edpuzzle said none of its actions violated its privacy policy “which we’ve written in plain language so that it’s accessible to everyone.”

In its app, Edpuzzle used two software development kits (SDKs), which are sections of code written by a third-party company, which experts say increase the risk of data leaks.

He denied using some of the most invasive key-logging tools in the industry, but said he “checks pressed keys for accessibility reasons.”

A DfE spokesman insisted the government had put in place ‘strict requirements’ ‘to keep children and their data safe online, including through data protection obligations for children. schools”.

But he said schools were ultimately responsible for choosing online learning programs – a position heavily criticized by experts.