Right To Privacy

EdTech needs an ethics policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Need for ethics policy in EdTech

The article highlights the privacy concerns associated with EdTech apps in the absence of a regulatory framework.

Privacy risks associated with EdTechs

  • Since the onset of the pandemic, online education has replaced conventional classroom instruction.
  • This has given rise to several EdTech apps which have become popular.
  • To perform the process of learning customisation, the apps collect large quantities of data from the learners through the gadgets that the students use.
  • These data are analysed in minute detail to customise learning and design future versions of the app.
  • The latest mobile phones and hand-held devices have a range of sensors like GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer and biometric sensors apart from the camera and microphones.
  • These provide data about the learner’s surroundings along with intimate data like the emotions and attitudes experienced and expressed via facial expressions and body temperature changes.
  • In short, the app and device have access to the private spaces of the learner that one would not normally have access to.

Informed consent in research

  • Researchers dealing with human subjects need to comply with ethics rules along with global standards.
  • One of the cardinal rules that should never be broken is informed consent.
  • Before any research on human subjects is undertaken, researchers have to submit detailed proposals to their respective ethics committees and obtain their permissions.
  • Further, a researcher working with children, for example, would also have to convince schoolteachers, parents, and school managements about the nature of the research to be undertaken, type of data to be collected, method of storage, the potential harmful effects of such data, etc.

Minimal safeguards in EdTech

  • The safeguards that traditional researchers are subject to are either missing or minimal in research that the EdTech industry promotes.
  • The concept of informed consent is not meaningful since there are no proper primers to explain to stakeholders the intricacies in layperson terms.
  • Since India does not have protection equivalent to the GDPR, private data collected by an EdTech company can be misused or sold to other companies with no oversight or protection.

Way forward

  • Given these realities, it is necessary to formulate an ethics policy for EdTech companies.
  • Such a policy draft should be circulated both online and offline for discussions and criticism.
  • Issues of fairness, safety, confidentiality and anonymity of the user would have to be dealt with.
  • EdTech companies would have to be encouraged to comply in the interest of a healthier learning ecosystem.

Consider the question “What are the challenges associated with the adoption of online education mode? Suggest the ways to deal with these challenges.”


The lack of a regulatory framework in India along the lines of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe could impinge on the privacy of students. What we need is ethics policy in online education space.

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