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K-12 Data Security, Privacy & Safety: What’s the Difference?

K-12 data security, data privacy and student online safety have all become familiar topics for schools and districts. The meanings of these terms are often confused for one another, however, which leads to misinformation and misunderstanding on how they relate to, and differ from, one another.

The confusion is understandable because in real-life situations there’s sometimes considerable overlap. For instance, if your school district suffers a data breach, and sensitive information is made public, it can be considered both a security and privacy concern (and potentially a concern of safety concern as well). To communicate how data security, data privacy and online students safety differ from one another as simply as possible, let’s use the analogy of a home.

Data Security

Data security refers to the protection of a network or environment from destruction and unwanted actions and unauthorized users. If you consider a home, data security would include the engineering measures taken to protect the home against natural disasters. For your digital environment, data security is your home’s foundation and will ultimately protect you from corruption, tampering and malicious use. Put another way: A home is only as secure as its craftsmanship.

Data Privacy

Data privacy refers to the information you allow various individuals and groups of people to access. Doors with locks provide a good starting point because they are designed to keep the general public from accessing your home. But not everyone is a stranger. You might have guests over for dinner, in which case you’ve welcomed them to access the inside of your home. There are, nevertheless, certain private areas in which some guests aren’t welcome to enter. Interior door locks provide additional levels of privacy when necessary.

School and district websites and information systems greatly reflect this structure of data privacy. The public can see the outside of your home, but guests are privileged to access more content (e.g. by authenticating into your website or student information system). What’s more, not all guests are equal. You allow family members to have more access in your home than new acquaintances, just like you would allow staff to access more information than parents.

Student Online Safety

If data security refers to the engineering, and data privacy refers to the locks, then students’ online safety can be likened to childcare. This is where Gaggle Safety Management comes in. Gaggle leaves your locks and window treatments to other professionals because our foremost concern is the safety of students. Safety Representatives provide schools and districts with early warning detection of student incidents, including bullying; suicide; drug and alcohol use; violence; and other harmful situations. We’re concerned with students’ actions, especially those that reveal students in harm and in need of help, in your online learning environments.

To best protect your school, your district, your staff and your students, you should combine the craftsmanship of a well-built home, doors with locks to keep people where they belong, and best-of-breed childcare that is never, and should never be, free.

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