Third Party Sites
Many organizations rely on third party sites to support their work flow. Once you find a website, app, or software that meets your needs in terms of content, you must then consider online safety, privacy, and security. After all, these products often store some of your organization’s most sensitive information. For educational institutions, laws such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) govern how data must be protected.
Evaluating Third Party Sites
With your organization’s data on the line, doesn’t it make sense to choose these products with care? A strong, detailed evaluation process is key in choosing a product that meets ALL of your needs. Once it has been determined that a product contains the necessary functions and content, consider asking the provider these questions to evaluate its security capabilities.
- What information is collected? Is the app asking for more information than is necessary to perform its functions? Do any additional third parties have access to the data (via cookies, plug-ins, ad networks, etc.)?
- Who provides information? Can users provide information directly? Are there different permissions levels?
- Who can access, use, or delete your data? Does the provider retain any ownership rights to your data?
- Review privacy settings. What can other users see? What can the provider see?
- How is the information protected? Does the provider encrypt your data? Does the website use HTTPS? Is data stored separately from other clients?
- How long is data retained? Data should be removed when no longer needed since it can be at risk for unauthorized access.
For more detailed evaluation criteria, check out Security Questions to Ask of An Online Service Provider. This particular article is directed toward educational institutions, but its questions can be applied to an array of industries. Choosing products can be a complicated decision, with multiple areas of concern. Make sure the provider can answer all of your questions thoroughly and specifically. If the provider cannot provide satisfactory answers, find one that can!
For our readers in the education industry, below are links to some informative resource on evaluating third party sites:
- Common Sense District Privacy Evaluation Initiative: This site was created to help teachers and district technology leaders evaluate online resources in terms of online safety, security, and privacy.
- The Information Security Primer for Evaluating Educational Software was developed share information about evaluating the information security practices of educational software.
- Educational Product Reviews: This site provides a user-friendly breakdown of reviews of educational resources that has already been evaluated under the Common Sense District Privacy Evaluation Initiative.