The Moral Rationale For Respect for Students’ Privacy

By Marilia Wyatt

Imagine reading a story about a real and honest character told by a vicious and evil storyteller.  The storyteller uses only bits and pieces of the narrative out of context to show the character in a most negative light. The main character is voiceless and powerless.

The storyteller alone determines what the audience will learn about the character.

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The storyteller alone determines what decisions are made about the character without their active knowledge and involvement in the process.


The fate of students’ human dignity concerning their privacy in online courses platforms should be in their hands; rather than in the hands of those who process or exploit their information irresponsibly –or disrespect their reasonable request to manage their information after the course completes.

Students are the main characters in the stories of their lives; this is what privacy in online courses is about.


Students cannot write their stories because leeches in higher education in New Jersey are holding students’ course profile data hostage after they have graduated from college. Students’ personally identifiable information has the potential of being leaked, discriminated, monitored, and sold to the highest bidder.

There should be explicit privacy contractual requirements for ed-tech and their affiliates to give back control to students of their information after the acquisition,  company failure, and or termination of the university vendor relationship.

There should be an easy option of a click of a button for students and graduates to manage their personal information that links details about their lives to their course profiles on the ed-tech platforms.

Importantly, the processing of students and graduates’ data on ed-tech platforms or any other any third-party entity, should also guarantee the free development of individuals’ personality and of its dignity. 

Kate Crawford, a researcher at Microsoft, warns us of hidden biases in data processing, she writes: 

Data and data sets are not objective; they are creations of human design. We give numbers their voice, draw inferences from them, and define their meaning through our interpretations. Hidden biases in both the collection and analysis stages present considerable risks.

In this story, students are not the storytellers of their lives…

Data protection should be founded on the respect to privacy, as well as to:

  1. Informational self-determination;
  2. Freedom of expression, communication, and opinion;
  3.  The preservation of intimacy, private life, honor, and image;
  4.  Businesses economic and technological development; and
  5.  Free enterprise, free competition, and consumer protection.


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