As the school year begins, Saskatchewan's information and privacy commissioner says school divisions need to be careful about online learning.
Ron Kruzeniski said he's concerned with the prospect of students streaming video to classrooms where their image may be accessed without permission.
"I think the concern for the privacy of kids or anybody is that their images are inadvertently, accidentally disclosed when they don't want to,' he said.
"It's something that I think school boards have to look at and make sure that they've checked out the platform, have the policies, and the teachers, parents and students know how the system is going to work."
As with many policies related to COVID-19, the provincial government has left decisions on remote learning up to individual school divisions.
Kruzeniski said it's very important that school divisions take privacy issues seriously.
He said the prospect of a classroom being streamed into a private home, and vice-versa, makes him concerned.
"A teacher in a normal classroom would see all the students, but in most cases, other people wouldn't," he said.
"So, when you have streaming, and if you have students' pictures showing up in the living room of some other student, a parent could be watching, a grandma could be watching, a caregiver could be watching you interact."
Kruzeniski said the best solution to this issue is for robust policies to be in place. He said comprehensive consent forms should be sent out to students.
As well, he said everyone involved should know how the videoconferencing app works and how to turn off the video when either sending or receiving.
"We're looking at constant education, constant discussion," he said.
"Talk to the teacher or the access and privacy officer to see what settings the teacher has, and in turn, what choices the parent has in the home if they don't want their child's image streamed to other students."
Plan in place
Both Regina and Saskatoon's public school divisions said they have a plan to deal with privacy concerns.
"Student and staff privacy is top of mind during all e-school and online instruction at Regina Public Schools," said spokesperson Terry Lazarou.
"All Regina Public Schools staff are required to participate in LA FOIP (Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy) professional development and understand its implications for every interaction and learning experience with students, school families and each other."
Saskatoon Public Schools said it drafted an online privacy document that was sent out to parents in April. The document said the division had a dedicated team of staff working on software and privacy concerns.
The document said parents can opt out of any software being used for online learning and can discuss other options with their child's teacher.
A spokesperson said videoconferencing and live streaming had been added to this year's parental consent form.
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