TAGS: ethics, principles, advisory opinion
by the Principles for Ethical Professional Practice Committee
Students, alumni, and employers expect that career centers will provide efficient and effective ways for them to connect within the virtual environment. To use these systems, users may be required to provide a certain amount of personal information. Users may also believe that their career centers have a degree of control over the technology provider platforms and, therefore, trust that the online platform is secure and safe for them to use.
For career centers, the related ethical considerations are:
There are two main areas of concern for career development professionals—1) the security of the user’s personal information and 2) the use of that same information by technology providers (or, depending on the situation, the higher education institution itself). Both of these concerns are developing areas, and the recommendations will likely continue to evolve along with the related societal discussion.
The security of personal information is a concern for users, who are typically students and alumni of the institution. User data could be compromised through malicious hacking or unintentionally through data disclosure without authorization. Stolen personal data can lead to a variety of negative outcomes for victims, including identity theft. Consequently, it is imperative for educational institutions, technology providers, and employers to know how to safeguard student data that are stored internally or through a third party, to carefully consider what data and information they are collecting, and to clearly communicate how the information will be used and to whom it will be disclosed.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects student identifiable information found in student records from unauthorized disclosure. In addition to FERPA, there are other regulatory requirements affecting both educational institutions and employers with respect to handling and maintaining student personal data. State and federal laws vary in terms of what information is protected. Colleges and universities should work with their legal professionals to determine the impact of FERPA and other applicable laws with respect to the use of any electronically stored personal information of students/alumni.
The use and security of personal data is a rapidly evolving area in terms of the types of technology used, user attitudes, and legal frameworks and requirements. Career center professionals should understand both the general and platform-specific situations presented by platforms that involve the use of personal data. Career center professionals should expect to invest time in staying current on the topics of data privacy and the online security of student personal information and be ready to update related policies.
When choosing a technology provider, career center staff should consider:
It is imperative that both colleges and employers understand their legal obligations when handling and maintaining student personal data and information, particularly as technology systems become more complex and integrated. Both technology providers and career centers must ensure that they have policies and procedures to protect data while balancing the ability of students and employers to connect.
Many technology providers and third parties collect students‘ personal information online to customize their services to fit the students’ needs and interests and to determine their consumer demographics. In some cases, this could involve reselling that information to others. Consequently, students should be aware of the potential risks regarding the security and use of their data by technology providers.
Easterly, Edward J. (November 2018). Maintaining and Handling Protected Data: How to Handle an Internal or Third-Party Breach. NACE Journal, 6-8.
Reviewed by the 2022 Principles for Ethical Professional Practice Committee.
Percent of institutions conducting First-Destination Surveys
Median number of professional staff
Percent of career centers with employer partnership programs
Percent of staff time spent student-facing
2021-22 Career Services Benchmarks Survey