Swimming pool water

New Conference Preprint: Reframing Student Privacy as a Common Value and Responsibility

Along with Tyler Dell, my very excellent co-author and research assistant, I’m excited to release a working paper to be presented at the upcoming annual Learning Analytics and Knowledge conference during the “Responsible Learning Analytics: Creating just, ethical, and caring LA systems” workshop.

The paper is starting me down a new theoretical conceptualization of student privacy, more towards a communitarian approach. I find myself frustrated by the individual rights approach—not because it’s wrong—but because it doesn’t seem tractable given sociotechnical arrangements, federal law and institutional policy, and the political interests of learning analytics advocates. It seems to me that if a strong argument can be made for why there is a wider institutional interest in and responsibility for student privacy, then maybe progress will come more quickly. To set the communitarian foundation, we lean on Priscilla Regan’s conceptualization of privacy as a common-pool resource, which of course was itself grounded in Elinor Ostrom’s work. It’s a work in progress, so comments are welcome. The abstract and a link to the paper follows.


In the American higher education context, student privacy is treated as an individual right. In this workshop paper, we argue that in light of emerging sociotechnical conditions this approach is flawed. Data mining, predictive analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence continue to push the boundaries of student privacy in ways once unimaginable, all of which challenge federal law, institutional policy, and contextual norms. Instead of relying on existing, non-workable conditions to protect students, we argue that institutional actors need to reframe their thinking about student data and student privacy by taking up a position that the data is a common-pool resource and privacy is a shared value—and responsibility.


You can access the preprint directly from my OSF workspace.

Kyle M. L. Jones

Dr. Kyle M. L. Jones is an associate professor in the Department of Library and Information Science within the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University-Indianapolis (IUPUI). Get in touch with Dr. Jones here.