Best Practices and Requirements For Student Privacy Protection While Using Online Educational Services

Information security in today’s online educational environment involves the protection of information and data belonging to the following three groups:

  • Personal data and information that relates to students and teaching staff. 
  • Educational programs, databases, libraries, and other structured information that are used to support the educational process. 
  • Legally protected intellectual property.

Intruders` actions can lead to the theft of these data. Unauthorized intrusions may also modify and destroy knowledge repositories, program codes, digitized books, and manuals used in the educational process.

The responsibilities of student privacy protection specialists include:

  • Ensuring the integrity of protected data. 
  • Maintaining constant accessibility of information for authorized persons. 
  • Ensuring the confidentiality of students’ personal data and preventing third parties from gaining access to it.

Also, student privacy protection specialists are required to prevent unauthorized changes and loss of data.

Threats to students’ privacy 

“The specifics of online educational services information security is the composition of threats. These include not only the possibility of data theft by hackers but also the activities of students. Students may intentionally or unintentionally infect the system with malware, admits Jacob Brown,” head of cybersecurity at Ivory Research. The following groups of objects may be threatened, intentionally or unintentionally:

  • Computer and other equipment that may be affected by malware, physical and other influences. 
  • Software used for the operation of the online educational system. 
  • Data stored on hard drives. 
  • Personnel who support the operation of the online educational system.

Threats of the unintentional type include:

  • Accidents and emergencies – flooding, power outages, etc.
  • Software failures. 
  • Employee errors. 
  • Equipment failures. 

The peculiarity of unintentional threats is their temporary impact. In most cases the results are predictable, rather effectively and quickly eliminated by trained personnel.

Much more dangerous are threats of intentional type. Usually, their results cannot be predicted. Intentional threats can come from students, organization personnel, competitors, and hackers. The person who intentionally affects computer systems or software must be sufficiently competent in their operation.


Student privacy protection measures

Online educational services provide student data protection at 5 levels:

  • Regulatory and legal. 
  • Moral and ethical 
  • Administrative and organizational. 
  • Physical.
  • Technical.

We will look at all five levels in more detail.

  1. Regulatory-legal protection measures

The legislation defines data that must be protected from unauthorized access by third parties. Such information includes:

  • Personal data.
  • Confidential information.
  • Official, professional, trade secrets.

Students’ privacy protection is regulated by the Labor Code and the Civil Code. Specific privacy protection measures, as well as the hardware and software used for this purpose, are determined by laws and relevant state standards.

  1. Moral and ethical protection measures

A system of moral and ethical values has a special meaning in the online educational environment. It serves as the basis for the measures set development aimed at protecting students from the information of an ethically incorrect, traumatic, illegal nature.

  1. Administrative and organizational protection measures

The system of administrative and organizational measures is based on the internal regulations and rules of the organization, which regulate the procedure for handling the information and its media. Online educational services develop:

  • Job descriptions.
  • Internal methodologies of information security.
  • Lists of data that are not to be transferred.
  • Regulations on interaction with authorized governmental bodies regarding requests for information, etc.
  1. Physical protection measures

The head of the educational service and its IT staff are responsible for the physical protection measures implementation for the computer network and storage hard drive. It is not permitted to shift these measures to hired security structures.

Physical protection measures include:

  • Implementing a pass system for access to the premises where hardware is located.
  • Establishing an access control and management system.
  • Definition of access levels.
  • Creating rules for mandatory regular copying of critical data to the hard drives of PCs not connected to the Internet.

Also among the physical measures are rules for creating passwords and changing them periodically.

  1. Technical protection measures

Technical protection measures include the use of specialized software. For example, use  DLP and SIEM systems, which are effective at detecting and combating security threats. If such systems cannot be used due to budget constraints, online educational services should use recommended and approved anti-viruses and other types of special software.

The software used for technical protection should ensure control of email used by staff of the educational service. Technical protection measures also can include restrictions on copying data from computer hard drives.


Student privacy protection is a set of measures aimed at achieving two main goals. The first goal is to protect personal students’ data from unauthorized interference, information theft, and system configuration changes by third parties. The second goal is to protect students from any kind of propaganda and advertising. Online educational services should protect students` privacy at 5 levels:

  • Regulatory and legal. 
  • Moral and ethical 
  • Administrative and organizational. 
  • Physical.
  • Technical.

Only full protection at all these levels can ensure that students` data will be private. 

Hope this article will help you.

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