A new report from the nonprofit Internet Safety Labs (ISL) finds significant disparities in K-12 school technology practices that impact privacy, especially in low-income schools and schools with majority black or indigenous students.

The new report from ISL examined app safety, school website safety, and school technology practices across five demographic lenses: grade level, school locale, school income level, school majority race, and school size. ISL said in a press release that the report “unveils the stark reality that the nation’s most marginalized students are being subjected to privacy risks at a higher rate while simultaneously potentially suffering from a digital divide from their peers in different demographic segments.”

Many of the key findings had to do with exposure to advertisements. The report found that schools in the lowest income segment ($20K-$39K annually) and schools with majority race American Indian/Native Alaskan have the lowest technology vetting of all demographics and have the highest average percentage of apps with ads or behavioral ads.

Additionally, public schools were nearly twice as likely as private schools to include digital advertising on school websites. The report also found that Black majority schools saw the highest rate of website ads (33.3 percent) by far, which is 64 percent higher than the national average and 76.2 percent higher than white majority race schools.

Overall, the report found that 91.1 percent of school websites include risky trackers, which enable personal data to be collected without the user realizing it. All of Black majority race school websites had trackers, and ISL said this segment had among the highest average number of trackers.

The report features a list of recommendations for schools, school districts, and policymakers, such as removing digital ads and advertising-related trackers from all school websites.

“This analysis was exploratory in nature, and we didn’t know what it would show. Our ongoing analysis of the U.S. EdTech benchmark data continues to yield important discoveries. We hope that local education agencies and policymakers can make good use of the findings and recommendations from this report,” said Lisa LeVasseur, executive director of Internet Safety Labs. “We’re also available to help schools establish tech vetting and software vendor management practices.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs