Program Recap: Privacy Issues In Education Law And Considerations For Technology Use

  • April 25, 2024
  • Andrea Lee, articling student 2023-2024, Lerners LLP

On January 25, 2024, the OBA hosted a program exploring the use of technology in the education sector and the potential privacy implications. Co-Chaired by Danielle Douek, partner at Lerners LLP, and Christiane Saad, director of the University of Ottawa's Law Practice Program, the session brought together experts to discuss the evolving landscape of technology in education and the associated legal and practical challenges.

Emely Melendez Rodriguez, associate university legal counsel (privacy) at Western University, shared insights into how the institution evaluates the risks of new technology. This method encompasses a comprehensive evaluation with a dedicated portion on privacy considerations, including factors such as the nature of the data utilized, the transmission requirements, and disclosure requirements associated with the technology. Through this process, the University strives to anticipate and mitigate potential privacy challenges as they adopt new technology.

Emely also touched on the hot topic of exam surveillance. Exam surveillance technology became prevalent during the pandemic and came with a host of privacy questions. While the legal implications of this software is still unknown due to its relatively recent emergence, it is an area to watch as legislation and case law is developed. 

Tracy Lachance, chief privacy officer at the University of Ottawa, provided practical insights to processing large and complex access to information requests. Tracy encouraged institutions responding to access to information requests to “think outside the box”. Institutions should consider whether it is necessary to narrow the scope of the request with confirmation from the Requester, get a time extension, provide a fee estimate, and/or consult with affected third parties. 

Jennifer Hunter, partner at Lerners LLP, dove into the ethical and legal concerns around using facial recognition in schools. It's not just about privacy—it's also about how this technology might reinforce biases and turn personal data into a commodity.  This highlights the need for clear rules and protections to keep students' privacy and security intact.

In closing, Jennifer discussed the significance of five recent privacy decisions. The decisions emphasized the importance of clear notice provisions and robust oversight mechanisms to ensure compliance with privacy laws. Additionally, the decisions emphasized the need for proactive measures, such as staff training, to safeguard personal information from unauthorized access and misuse.

The OBA program provided a comprehensive examination of the relationship between technology adoption and privacy considerations within the education sector. The insights shared by the panelists provide valuable guidance for lawyers and educational stakeholders alike, reminding everyone to stay proactive in protecting privacy rights as education becomes more digital.


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