Use of webcams, social media 'optional' in online learning to protect data privacy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16) — Using web cameras should be optional for online classes to protect the privacy of students, according to guidelines from school representatives part of the Data Privacy Council for the Education Sector.

In a statement, the National Privacy Commission (NPC) released the suggested rules drawn up by officials from public and private universities and colleges that will cover virtual classrooms under the "new normal."

"Before webcam-supported online discussions are recorded, schools must consider getting the consent of the parent and legal guardian of students below 18 years old," the NPC said in a statement referring to the rules from the Data Privacy Council Education Sector.

The council drew up the guidelines and submitted them for NPC review. However, the measures are just considered recommendations for each school to adopt.

Most schools have opted to use virtual learning tools, including video conferences, to sustain formal education amid the COVID-19 crisis. Face-to-face classes are banned until a vaccine is available.

The rules also suggest having a guardian present during the recorded class sessions for pupils aged below 18. "Explicit consent of the student (or parent or legal guardian, in the case of minors) should be obtained prior to the conduct of online proctoring and the use of related tools or technologies," it added.

READ: Here's how you can avoid (and recover from) 'video call fatigue'

"An educational institution is accountable for all the personal data it collects and processes," the guidelines also read, noting that information about education is considered as sensitive personal education under the Data Privacy Act.

Any data that will be collected and processed by schools should only be for legitimate purposes, and must not be used for personal use. Institutions are likewise told to partner with a learning management system or online productivity platforms to provide virtual learning services, with enough features for data protection.

READ: Why Filipinos should care about their personal data online

The rules also warn against the posting of personal data or outputs on social media platforms as part of course requirements, adding that these should be removed or deleted online when the course ends.

The announcement of grades, assignment results, and other school output should likewise be disseminated in a way that may be viewed individually by concerned students. Portals for online submissions should be safe and secure as well.

The NPC previously reported a spike in data breaches among colleges and universities in July, as hackers seem to target the personal information of the youth. Official websites of select educational institutions have been defaced by hackers earlier this year.

Among the schools part of the council are San Beda University, De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines-Manila, University of the Philippines-Cebu, Technological University of the Philippines, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, University of Perpetual Help-Dalta, University of Santo Tomas-Legazpi, Central Mindanao University, Laguna State Polytechnic University and Ateneo de Iloilo.