Scratch, Micro:bit, and Dig Cit: A Closer Look at Terms of Service & Privacy Policies

“I agree to the Terms and Conditions” – Yeah yeah…

“I agree to the Privacy Policy” – Ahh, they are watching us anyway…

As a major user of the internet for the past 20 years, I can’t imagine how many times I’ve agreed to terms and conditions and privacy policies for a variety of websites, apps, or tools. In terms of using technology for my personal life, whether it be for Facebook, Snapchat, or WordPress, I’ll admit that I’ve never read more than a single line of these long-winded pages. I honestly don’t have a good reason as to why I skip the reading and simply click the box. After a quick reflection, I came up with these very simple reasons as to why I don’t these policies. Here are a few reasons:

  • They are way too long. Who has the time or patience to read all of this information?
  • The legal language is confusing. To the average consumer, this legal jargon is confusing and takes some serious concentration to actually comprehend. You might want to consider hiring a lawyer to explain this to you in lame man’s terms.
  • To be honest, I don’t even think about clicking the box. I’ve been so accustomed to these policy messages, I just bypass them so I can quickly create my account.

I’m aware that those are simply lazy and bad habits when using the internet. It took a major project in #eci832 to finally get me exploring and thinking about the implications of these policies. Going forward, I think my slightly increased awareness about terms of service and privacy might cause me to stop and think for a second before clicking the box.

When using programs and resources for educational purposes, I can honestly say that I only look for one thing. “How old do they have to be to use this program?” If they are old enough, I continue on my way and use this program in the classroom. When they are not old enough, I log on to my school division website and look to see if there is a permission form for that particular program. This is problematic, as I truly don’t know what these companies are doing with student data and information. As an educator, it is my responsibility to ensure that I am keeping my student’s information and privacy safe in the digital world. When thinking about Mike Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship, there is great opportunity to teach students a few of the elements as they are signing up for programs. These include:

  • Digital Law: Are there any legal implications when using this website? What laws exist in our country when using the internet? Are my actions online exempt from the law?
  • Digital Security and Privacy: What happens to my information when I sign up using my full name, age, address, and gender? Who owns this information? Why is my information valuable to companies or corporations? What can I do to protect my privacy and security?

Now getting on to my major project… It was quite the experience trying to understand the terms of service and privacy policies of two programs commonly used in education. I’ve highlighted some key points and personal thoughts when analyzing the policies on Scratch and Micro:bit.

Scratch:

Terms of Service:

  • Scratch is open to children and adults of all ages. This is beneficial for teachers as they don’t need to worry about additional permissions. Also, I find that many programs or applications require students to be 13 years of age, which can make finding valuable educational technology challenging at times.
  • The Scratch team may change the terms of service from time to time. I believe this is quite common in most terms of service agreements, as they control all aspects of the program. This is important to understand as things can change without you even knowing it.
  • “All user-generated content you submit to Scratch is licensed to and through Scratch under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. This allows the Scratch team to display, distribute, and reproduce your content through their channels.” Once you create on Scratch, it essentially becomes available for anyone in the world to share or use. If students create personal content, such as uploading a picture of themselves to the Scratch software, this is freely available to anyone in the world with access to Scratch.
  • In order to save or publish your content on Scratch, you need to create an account. As most projects will take an extended period of time, students will need to create an account to save their work. At this point, students need to be aware of the information they are sharing when creating an account.

Privacy Policy:

  • During account creation, Scratch will ask for a username, country, birth month, year, gender, and email address. If you are under 16, they ask for your parent or guardians’ email address. Through this process, Scratch will be able to gather quite a bit information about students. I can see students using their personal email, even if it states it must be their parents.
  • When you use Scratch, third party service providers collect information about you and your device, through cookies and web server logs. By using Scratch, you consent to the placement of cookies and similar technologies. They information collected includes IP address, network location, what browser you are using, device IDs, and other information. Using specific technologies, Scratch will have the ability to locate where you are in the world. How does a third party service provider use this information to their advantage?
  • Scratch shares personal information to third-party service providers. As age, gender, and other personal information is being gathered, Scratch shares this information with these companies. How do these companies benefit from this information?
  • Data retention: They take measures to delete your personal information or keep it in a form that doesn’t allow you to be identified when this information is no longer necessary for the purposes for which they process it, unless they are required by law to keep it. This area isn’t that clear to me as I’m unsure if they actually ever delete your information. How long does it take Scratch to process it?

Micro:bit

Terms of Service:

  • Your creations on Micro:bit are stored locally. When published on the website, you agree that all of your contributions are available for others to: freely use with attribution on a non-commercial basis, share, copy, and redistribute in any medium. Once your work is published, it’s essentially free for anyone to use. Another reminder for students to understand how their creations can be shared worldwide.
  • You must understand and inform children that posting personal data, sharing contributions that infringes other’s intellectual property rights is a breach of terms of use.
  • Micro:bit can modify, suspend, or discontinue all or part of the service without giving you any notice. Be aware! Make sure you abide by the terms of service.

Privacy Policy:

  • Although anyone can use this resource, it’s been designed for users between 8 and 14 and the educators who use them. This is quite valuable for middle school students, as software can be quite complex for them to understand at times.
  • On Micro:bit’s main site, they enhance the privacy in the following ways:
    • They don’t associate your IP address with any information that can identify you personally. They don’t store personal information such as your name, age, or email address in cookies.
    • They do not use geo-location data from your device but may be able to determine your approximate location from your IP address.

Overall, I learned many things when reading the terms of service and privacy policies on Scratch and Micro:bit. There were definitely times where I had to reread some items 5-10 times, as the legal language made it quite confusing to understand.When I was rereading for the tenth time, I started to think of all the ways this benefits these companies. I think many companies do not want their consumers to read the terms of service and privacy policies, as this could potential hurt their ability to generate profit for their company. If people and students fully understood the privacy implications of signing up for a service, I’m sure there are some users that would choose to not use a service. This leaves me with one final question that can be applied to our personal lives or the lives of our students…

  • What’s the value of your personal data?

7 thoughts on “Scratch, Micro:bit, and Dig Cit: A Closer Look at Terms of Service & Privacy Policies

  1. Thanks for looking into those terms and conditions and those privacy policies. Following your post, I’m thinking it might be time for the federal government to create laws related to the length, the content and the language used in privacy policies and in terms and conditions. There practices of providing complex and difficult to parse documents before clicking the “agree” button seems to me as disingenuous and criminal.

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  2. You are definitely not alone. I follow these same practices. Often I too, will disregard terms and service/privacy policies for myself but will follow them more closely for my students. I think you are exactly right these services that we are subscribing to could be hoping we are not reading the Terms of Service and the Privacy Policy. I have also seen many companies state is you use their service that your content belongs to them. I also think that this is slightly scary.

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  3. I too have clicked many boxes to agree without reading the terms of service and privacy policies. The clip you shared of Mark Zuckerberg is alarming. I found it very telling when the senator told Zuckerberg, you better come up with different ways because this isn’t working for the average citizen and his response was not a clear yes. This really demonstrates that how important it is for us to really be aware of what we are signing up for as the creators of apps and social media platforms are of course looking out for what is best for their companies. I started taking this more seriously when my division changed policies around what apps could be loaded on the school ipads. Up until that point we had the freedom to put on anything we felt was useful. Now, extensive research is conducted into the apps before they are approved for use in our schools. When we know better we do better!

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  4. Trevor,

    Like you and Curtis mentioned, I too mindlessly click away on those boxes, not having any idea what I’m signing myself up for! The reasons you named hit the nail on the head: the legal jargon is so confusing and way too long! I wonder, when I start diving into my research on my apps and reading those policies, if I will apply this to my everyday habits or if reading those policies will actually make me decide not to sign up, create an account, etc. I had no idea Micro:bit could share anyone’s creations online! Wow. Thank you for providing a brief summary of your apps! I have heard of both before, but never actually used either of them. I look forward to learning more from your research!

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  5. I am really glad you chose to look into Scratch. I use Scratch Jr. in my classroom and I wonder how similar the terms are. I would say I am just as guilty as you for not reading the policies (especially if the app has been recommended by a reputable source). However, just this week, after seeing your tweet that questioned how often we look at privacy, I hesitated when opening a new app. I find it interesting that I blindly accepted policies before but that that one tweet you sent caused me to stop and think before I acted. I think you are spot on when you said, “If people and students fully understood the privacy implications of signing up for a service, I’m sure there are some users that would choose to not use a service. ” Anyways, thank you for bringing light to this topic! I look forward to learning more about Scratch!

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  6. Like the fact you checked out a couple of sites that are used quite a bit with kiddos under 13 for sure in the classroom and bringing to light some of the terms with signing up for these. I’ve shared this a bit https://tosdr.org it will look through quite a few sites and let you know what class there terms are at. Thanks for the share.

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  7. Well, I don’t think I’ve ever read a terms of service. Just click the box. They aren’t exactly written in plain english either… but I guess these companies don’t want to be held liable so they are in legal-ese.

    I’m so happy to see you exploring Scratch and Micro:bits… you are the sort of teacher I would have liked to have when I was a kiddo.

    Cheers.

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