The Evolving Landscape of Data Privacy in Higher Education


Data privacy is positioned to continue growing in importance across higher education, following information security's trajectory over the past ten years. The situation created by the pandemic and the rise of contact tracing has highlighted the need for people to think about privacy in new ways. Institutions are working to uphold laws and regulations related to data protection, but people are starting to think more broadly than simple compliance, focusing on the ethics of personal data recording and processing. As we move forward, privacy must be included in plans for digital literacy, to help students better understand their rights and the ways their data are being used not only in higher education but in society at large. The better educated the population is, the easier it will be to ensure that privacy is protected as a right and not merely available as a privilege.

Based on this research, the major focus for privacy in higher education right now needs to be the creation of privacy roles and staff positions and on the expansion of assessments of both the internal and external collection and use of personal data. Once an institution can identify and explain how, why, and where personal data are being collected across the system, it can focus efforts on building trust with staff, faculty, and students through transparency, policy, and awareness campaigns.

Working to show the value of privacy to faculty and staff will help reduce the perception of privacy as a roadblock or cause of delay in our work and will help build an informed privacy community at the institution. Each step of progress that is taken and shared with other institutional members increases privacy awareness, helps increase the number of people at the institution incorporating privacy throughout their work, and moves the higher education community closer to a brighter future of privacy management.