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NAtional School Board creates guide for cloud computing, privacy

The Renton School District has yet to review new guidelines put forth by the National School Boards Association concerning student data privacy concerns and cloud computing.

Cloud computing is the ability to run programs as well as access, store and synchronize information over the internet, rather than a computer hard drive.

Although the district is not required to review the report, the NSBA recently published a guide that seeks to raise awareness of student privacy concerns.

The guide, “Data in the Cloud,” offers “that cloud computing applications offer ease of use and accessibility, but come with the potential for loss of privacy and increased liability, as personal information is transferred to the application,” a press release stated.

The Renton School District uses a number of cloud computing services, but has yet to review the NSBA guide, said Randy Matheson, district spokesperson.

“Much of our student data, which like all local school districts in the region, is contracted through a state co-op known as Washington State Information Systems Cooperative (WSIPC),” said Matheson in an email. “We have a number of other educational services that are cloud-based.”

According to WSIPC, cloud-based services at local districts can be products like subscriptions to Microsoft Office that offer email, calendars, website, file sharing, managing projects, instant messaging and mobility in the cloud.

Local WSIPC contact Kristi Barrios said the organization is more than equipped to handle student privacy issues and cloud computing with their more than 47 years of experience.

“Not only do we adhere to national guidelines, we are proactive in providing the most powerful and safe technology environments for our districts,” she said. “We agree with the NSBA’s position on student privacy, and support their efforts to create awareness and communicate privacy rights, practices, and policies to further protect student and employee information.”

The demand in the districts is growing and the technology is improving, Barrios said, althougth WSIPC can’t measure the usage of cloud-based services by school districts.

“Therefore we may only assume that more and more districts throughout our state and across the nation will take advantage of some type of cloud-based storage,” said Barrios.

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