Summer 2019 Product Update: Investing in data transparency, control and access for our users

How the Packback product team is working to bring the spirit of the leading edge of data privacy regulations and protections into our platform to ensure students have control over their data and transparency into how their data is collected and used.

Image of a locker with the text: "Data Privacy on Packback: Giving students data control, privacy, and transparency to create safe learning environments."

During the summer of 2019, the Packback Product Engineering team took on a major initiative to build upon the foundation of data privacy by design we had established since we first started Packback Questions. We have always collected as little data about our users as possible to be able to deliver our service, have built our platform using secure coding practices (including subjecting our platform to penetration testing by 3rd party firms) and have trained our staff on proper data handling practices.

During this summer, we worked to deeply internalize the spirit of leading international data privacy regulations and then build the features that would help us become a champion for data control and access in the education space. This summer, we have modified our platform to move in line with the requirements of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act), and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act).

New Data Control, Consent, and Access Features

Terms of Use Affirmative Consent Experience

Packback’s sign up experience has always asked our users to consent to our Terms of Use before signing up. However, the process for consenting to our terms in the past was more passive; they only needed to continue in the process to consent. We have added a step to our sign up experience that requests an active, affirmative opt-in to our Terms of Use (they must actually make a selection between “Accept” or “Decline”). This Terms of Use Acceptance page now also displays the key elements of our Terms of Use in plain language; instead of burying our users in legalese, we shared the meaningful elements of our Terms in a way that is easy to understand.

Cookie consent on Packback.co and Packback Questions

Cookies are a small bit of code used to help track users as they interact with web platforms. They can be used for all sorts of purposes; some essential to the operation of a site and some used solely for analytics. We now prompt users to make a selection of the level of cookies they are comfortable with and then click a button to indicate they are aware of and consent to the use of cookies. The most important part of this feature is to ensure our users have transparency into what information we store about them, and that they have control over how much data we track.

Coming September 2019: Enabling users to delete their account

While we hope that our student learners stay with Packback for many years and love contributing to their account, we wanted to make it easier for a student to remove themselves from Packback, should they so choose. Starting in September 2019, students will have access to a “Delete Account” feature which will fully remove their account from Packback’s system (including our database, backups, and any tools that reference their data).

Coming September 2019: Enabling users to download a copy of their data

At Packback, we see ourselves as a guide and a medium through which students generate critical discussion. While we maintain shared ownership of posts while they are on our platform to allow us to display them and deliver our service, content written by our students ultimately belongs to our students. In September, we will be introducing a “Download” feature that will enable students to export all of the data they have contributed to Packback. A student’s data is never “trapped” inside Packback; they can always retrieve it and download a copy to use for their portfolio.

For Canadian users: Introducing Packback Canada

In the fall semester, we are welcoming many new Canadian students to our platform. To be able to properly and safely serve our Canadian users in line with the requirements of PIPEDA (Canada’s consumer data privacy act), we have introduced a fully separate version of Packback called Packback Canada. No data is shared between our US and Canada system and all databases that serve Packback Canada are located on Canadian ground.

Why Invest in Data Privacy?

In all industries, data privacy and control are critically important, but we believe it is even more important in the education industry than most. Students need a safe place to learn and discuss, and as our world moves online, as do our education tools and practices.

We want to be a leader in providing our users with transparency, control, and access over their data so that our students, professors, and institutions know that Packback is a trusted partner committed to protecting our learners’ privacy, autonomy and safety.