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Privacy and cloud based apps – a background paper from BCcampus

Descending Clouds

Ahead of their province wide conference on Privacy and Cloud-Based Educational Technology happening on April 4th, BCcampus has released a background white paper on Privacy and Cloud-Based Educational Technology in British Columbia (PDF).

The report is based on questionnaires and interviews conducted by BCcampus with a cross section of institutional stakeholders (instructors, teaching and learning centres and IT administrators) at 9 BC post-secondary institutions (25 were contacted) in the Fall of 2010.

The paper highlights some of the concerns and benefits post-sec institutions in BC are grappling with when considering using cloud-based applications and services (specifically those hosted in the US), and illustrates some examples of how BC post-sec’s have addressed these issues within their institutions.

Some institutions are afraid to authorize any “web 2.0” technologies because of privacy concerns, some have used workarounds, and some have just gone ahead and implemented institution-wide technologies to the best of their ability.

If you are involved in IT or EdTech in BC, this report is well worth the read and provides some real-life examples of how post-sec institutions in BC are addressing the ambiguous issues inherent with the big elephant in the room. As the report notes:

All (post-secondary institutions) have one thing in common: the need for clarity around what is or is not aligned with B.C.’s privacy legislation.

This ambiguity is reflected in one of the questions raised by Vancouver Island University:

Getting clear-cut responses from the Office of the BC Privacy Commissioner is important to  enabling post-secondary administrators to provide correct advice and guidance on FIPPA  related questions. What can the BC government ministry [responsible for FIPPA] do to  facilitate this?

Gina Bennett from the College of the Rockies also reflects this clarity concern.

According to Gina Bennett at COTR, FIPPA requirements aren’t well understood. “[Postsecondary institutions] use extreme caution, they don’t act -out of fear– or they fly under the  radar,” when they consider using cloud-based services or social media.

But my favorite Gina Bennett quote has to be this one, which nicely encapsulates one of the big picture issue that are at stake here.

“I wish we could have ‘openness people’ rather than ‘privacy people” at institutions. We  should be all about sharing. What is the purpose of the academy if not for sharing ideas?”

Hear, hear.

Photo: Descending Clouds by Gary Hayes used under Creative Commons license

CC BY 4.0 Privacy and cloud based apps – a background paper from BCcampus by Clint Lalonde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.