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MathFessor Acts Ethically Responsible With Children’s Data

The Danish company Edulab has prepared a customer data promise as a set of data ethical guidelines and an understandable privacy policy, telling users what they do and don’t do with their data. A role model which most services targeted children and other groups, could learn from.

“As the leading provider of digital math for schools in Denmark, we take great pride in living up to our data ethical responsibility. Continuous focus is on the protection of personal data in our digital math universe. Everyone must be able to feel safe sharing their personal data with us, whether you are a teacher, pupil or parent.”

This is what the Danish company Edulab, whose mission is to make the world’s children better at Math, write on their website. And when you meet them in their humble premises opposite Vanløse Station, where they sit closely together because Edulab is a growing company, there is no doubt that the desire to treat children’s data ethically responsible is more than heartfelt.

“We create teaching. It is also about educating. And it’s about behaving properly. We would like to take care of data and behave properly, and this could also be an advantage for our business,“ says founder and director Kasper Holst Hansen.

He is sure that data ethical behavior becomes a competitive parameter.

“But only briefly. Because it will be normal soon. Those of our competitors who cannot guarantee data ethics will loose,“ he believes.

80,000 Danish children log into the portal daily to do exercises and homework in mathematics. Teachers and parents can follow the children’s development in mathematical competencies.

Also, in Norway and Sweden and very soon Holland children will become friends with Fessor.

Edulab sells private subscriptions to parents and subscriptions to schools. The parents themselves enter the required data and give Edulab consent to use their children’s data in the platform. When it comes to schools, Edulab gets common data like name, class, school and teacher from STIL, the Board of IT and Learning. And then they generate a lot of data in the form of answers that they analyze so parents and teachers can follow the progression in children’s math skills.

The children also have access to data, but not everything, for example, they do not know that they are working with 3rd grade content, if they are in the 6th grade. Only the teachers know and this gives the teacher the knowledge to help the individual student. A few years ago Edulab also had a playful competition game – boys against girls – which was presented on the front page of the platform. Today the game has been deleted.

“A female math researcher called me and criticized the competition. She said it was hard enough to be a woman in math. So, we removed it. We realized how big a responsibility we have and how much we can influence, “says Kasper Holst Hansen.

According to Edulab’s IT Manager Lotte Ludvigsen, the company does not need data such as eye color, height, language or gender. Edulab look at the behavior and progression of the competencies. In general, they are working to get as little data as possible – data minimization, which is one of the principles of the EU Data Regulation. They do not use the CPR numbers they receive from STIL. The data they get from STIL, also includes data of historical reasons, such as gender, and Edulab tries to exclude the data not needed from the data delivered by STIL. They do not have third party cookies on their portal, which the children use, nor the SoMe plugins that so many other websites commit to. This they do to prevent sharing children’s data with a third party. Edulab also does not sell third party data and has clear data processing agreements with its subcontractors. Google Analytics is only used on their regular websites for marketing purposes.

Although Edulab is convinced that data ethics are a good business, there are also situations where commercial goals fall into the data ethics. For example, they had a important discussion about whether they should use Facebook’s retrieval tool, so Facebook users who have visited Edulab’s website will meet ads for Edulab on Facebook.

“Commercial issues and ethical topics sometimes work as opposites,” says Lotte Ludvigsen. “We had an ethical discussion about it and will now test Facebook’s retargeting focused on teachers. We set the age limit to 21, so we are sure not to target children and young learners on Facebook. So this we are testing and will see which results appear.”

According to Lotte Ludvigsen, Edulab is still unable to live up to GDPR. For example, to describe all their processes and controls.

Working with data ethics is already a competitive advantage for Edulab in their export markets. In Sweden, it’s just something your partner takes for granted. And when Edulab recently signed an agreement in Holland, there was no doubt that their data ethical guidelines were of great importance.

“It’s just positive to behave properly,” says Kasper Holst Hansen.

Edulab’s data ethical guidelines

• It is of great importance to us that all data and use of data must serve the purpose of making children better at math.

• Our digital portal is ad free – we do not advertise our own or the products of others. However, when relevant, we inform teachers of our new products and initiatives via the portal’s teacher front page.

• We do not use SoMe plugins on our digital portal – this in order to ensure that social media has no access to data stored on our portal.

• Under no circumstances do we sell or supply personal data to third party.

• We only share data with our stakeholders to the extent it is relevant and safe.

• We collaborate with the world of research and science, however any shared data is anonymized. Furthermore, all researchers and scientists must sign a non-disclosure agreement.

• We provide data transparency – we are open about how we treat data, how long we keep it for and who has access to it. Furthermore, we inform our users of their options and rights in terms of their data.

19.2.2018 This sentence has been edited from age of 25 til 21: “We set the age limit to 21, so we are sure not to target children and young learners on Facebook. So this we are testing and will see which results appear.”