Secure texting for educators – Maintaining privacy

Kids Messaging App Safety Tips – Discord Review | The Cyber Safety LadyIn the age of technology, communication methods for teachers have evolved rapidly. Communication between teachers, students, and parents is increasingly conducted by email and text messaging. In addition to its many benefits, technology also poses new privacy risks. As an educator, maintaining privacy and security should be a top priority when communicating electronically. Text messaging is convenient, but standard SMS messages have serious privacy risks. Mobile carriers and hackers can easily intercept text messages since they are not encrypted. Texts are lost once they are sent. Unknowingly or without your permission, your messages could be viewed, shared, or exploited. This presents obvious issues for teachers who often exchange confidential student information or sensitive discussions over text. A more secure texting method is needed.

Potential solutions for secure texting

There are a few different solutions that facilitate more private text messaging:

Encrypted end-to-end apps 

The encryption provided by Signal and WhatsApp is end-to-end.  This means only the sender and recipient read the messages. Not even the app provider accesses the content. While this is better than standard SMS, there are still concerns. Users’ metadata (whom you talk to, when, etc.) is still visible to these companies. The apps have security vulnerabilities that leave messages exposed. Encrypted apps also require the recipient to have the app too.

Disappearing message apps

Snapchat and other apps allow users to set timers for messages to be deleted automatically after being read. It prevents content from being accessible long-term. However, screenshots and other ways to save messages still compromise this. Metadata is accessible to app companies even if messages are deleted. 

Private note services  

Private note services like PrivNote provide one-time use, self-destructing notes. You don’t even need an app – they work through web browsers. The recipient views the message once then it’s permanently deleted from the private server. No accounts or logins are required. This eliminates long-term data access and collection by apps, increasing privacy. But it lacks the encryption of other services. Find out more here

Secure texting tips for teachers

When evaluating secure texting options, there are a few key factors for teachers to consider:

  • Encryption methods – Ensure messages are encrypted in transit and at rest to prevent unauthorized access. 
  • Metadata visibility – Choose options that limit metadata collection and visibility to protect your communication patterns.
  • Ease-of-use – The more convenient the app or service, the more likely teachers will use it consistently. Look for no login requirements.
  • Student safety – Guarantee only school personnel access messages to keep student data safe. Avoid public apps.
  • Compliance – Make sure your choice complies with district policies, privacy laws like FERPA, and records regulations. Consult officials if unsure.
  • Training – Educate faculty and staff on the proper use of the texting method to maintain security. Update procedures as needed.
  • Backups – Do not store sensitive information long term. Encrypt backups and store them according to policy.
  • Context clues – Be mindful of context clues in messages that could identify students if exposed. Aim for vague, professional language.

The privacy risks are real, but taking the proper precautions allows educators to utilize the efficiency of secure texting. With strong encryption, limited metadata collection, and automatic deletion of messages, services like PrivNote empower teachers to communicate securely.