Public social media is a huge risk in K‑12

Why an online “walled garden” for K-12 district news and community collaboration is important in K-12

Educators may be well-meaning, but sharing school and student accomplishments on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is inviting trouble, warn researchers quoted in an article published today by Education Week.

Schools and districts that post pictures and names of students on public sites like Facebook and Twitter likely aren’t breaking the law, according to the article. But their information is easily scraped by “a lot of actors who collect open data on the web for a range of purposes, and some of them are really, really not good,” according to one of the authors of a report published today that inspired EdWeek’s article.

[On public social media sites,] student photos are ‘available to anybody in the world forever.’

The report estimates 4.9 million school Facebook posts created between 2005 and 2020 include identifiable images of students and that approximately 726,000 of those posts also include students’ first and last names and their approximate location.

Nefarious uses
These posts are available to “organizations that track criminals, foreign governments, and some very ‘nefarious’ users—including those who traffic in child pornography,” warns the report.

Students may become easier to identify from their school Facebook pictures years down the road, as facial-recognition software becomes more powerful. Researchers didn’t even need to be logged onto Facebook in order to see student photos, enlarge them, and save them. That means “potentially anyone in the world” can take a closer look at a post that, for instance, congratulates a particular student on being elected class president, using their full name and picture, said Joshua Rosenberg, one of the authors of the report.

The report and the article demonstrate the importance for K-12 communities to be able to connect in safe ways. Systems like the Edsby collaborative learning platform allow districts to share online with their educators, parents and students inside a managed, authenticated environment, with all of their exchanges safe from prying eyes on the internet.