PARENTS are being urged to seek guarantees from their schools that students' digital footprints are not being used by internet firms to develop targeted advertising.
ACSSO, Australia's peak national parent body, has launched a petition calling on schools and political leaders to provide greater privacy protection for students.
It comes as a new parent survey on data mining by cloud providers, to be released at an ACSSO event in Sydney on Wednesday, uncovered widespread concern about threats to students' privacy.
More than 90% of the 1000 parents surveyed objected to the online tracking of children in schools for marketing purposes, while four in five wanted an immediate ban on the practice of data mining to protect children's privacy.
While ACSSO supports the use of external cloud providers that offer efficient services to schools, such as flexible student and teacher email platforms and new education apps, it is concerned by recent media reports suggesting students are at risk of having personal details, emails and schoolwork mined for commercial purposes by cloud providers.
ACSSO president Peter Garrigan said data mining posed a "real threat to students' privacy for the rest of their lives".
He said parents held schools responsible for protecting the online privacy of their children while in school.
"Parents clearly want tougher regulations introduced to ban any cloud provider from mining school student data," Mr Garrigan said.
"Every local school should give a guarantee to parents that children's privacy is protected from the risk of data mining. Schools should simply ban the practice.
"We need greater transparency and protection on this issue before it is too late."
The survey showed few Australian parents knew much about data mining and how their children were at risk of being tracked by internet firms in schools.
But when they learn about the risks, parents insist school contracts with external email service providers must prevent online ads and the profiling of students.
Further, parents want opt-out rights and laws that give them full control over what internet ad firms do in school.
The petition and more information can be found at: http://www.acsso.org.au.
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