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How safe is my data?

In this article, Sebastian Binnewies explores FutureLearn’s privacy policy and invites you to share your opinion on the safety of your data.
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© Griffith University
You are now enrolled in this FutureLearn course. You are interacting with the site and generating data on it. Are you interested in how much of your data is collected, how long it will be stored, and how it may be used? You can find answers to these questions by looking at FutureLearn’s privacy policy.

Privacy policies

A privacy policy is a statement by an organisation that sets out how customer data is collected, used, managed, and shared. Privacy policies can apply to data collected both online and offline. They can be legally binding. Even though privacy policies are written for consumers, they can be lengthy and difficult to understand, so many people do not bother reading them.

FutureLearn’s privacy policy

Let’s have a look at some parts of FutureLearn’s privacy policy to see how FutureLearn collects, uses, manages, and shares your data.

Collection of information

Section 3. Collection of Information, tells you what type of data may be collected, including:
  • personal information, such as your name, email address, location, gender, educational history, and credit card details
  • your activity on the site, such as comments, posts, assessments, purchases, and which parts of the site you visit and for how long.

Use of your information

Section 4. Use of Your Information, is about how the site uses the information collected from you. There are quite a few uses listed. Mainly your information is used to provide the site’s services and to personalise your experience.

Data management

Sections 5. Storage of Information, 8. Data Retention and 11. Cookies, cover how the site manages your data.

Disclosure of your information

Section 7. Disclosure of Your Information, tells you how your data is shared with other organisations. Interestingly, Section 3.5 also contains some information about how your data may be shared with an external organisation, the identity verification partner.

Partner institutions

Under Section 2. Use of the Website and Online Courses and Content, we find the sentence,
‘Partner Institutions who provide the Online Courses and Content or other linking sites found on the Website may also gather information and you should consult those other parties’ privacy policies as appropriate and applicable.’
This is an important clause and perhaps quite unique. FutureLearn acts as an umbrella site for institutions to offer courses. Partner institutions may have an interest in the data generated on the FutureLearn site. For example, they may wish to find out more about the learners in their courses to, make improvements or offer new courses.
We’ve started thinking about how our data is being collected, used, managed, and shared. In the next step we consider the question: How do you feel about the use of big data analytics in our society?

Your task

Do you feel like your data is safe with FutureLearn?
Are there things that you would feel uncomfortable sharing on the platform?
Share your answers in the comments.
© Griffith University
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