Transparency Matters

Some backstory.

A month ago I wrote about Geddit going out of business this summer. I mentioned another response-system app, Kahoot!, which has exploded over the last few months. Specifically, I called out their Terms of Service (TOS) which states that any content a user uploads gives Kahoot! a royalty-free license, yada yada yada. With no qualifying statements, that’s a lot of rights to give up.

What I didn’t expect was a tweet from the CEO of Kahoot! asking if I’d be willing to have a conversation about their TOS.

So we did.

I can’t give specifics about our discussion, but there are some themes that stood out to me:

1. There can be major cultural differences when TOS are written up. Kahoot! is a company based in Norway, and Norway is a country where privacy laws slant heavily in favor of the consumer or user. Not so true here in the States. Johan and I talked about this a little, and he admitted that when Kahoot! was launched, they thought the Norwegian TOS benchmark would be self-evident and that users wouldn’t really worry so much about data loss. I appreciated his honesty in the admission that they are arbitrary, and in countries like the US, some clarification would help.

For the record, that license you agree to is so the community can function. Without granting rights to the company, they’d have to get individual permissions to share any lesson uploaded with any one other person. Totally reasonable, and clarification on that point would be helpful.

2. Kahoot! isn’t interested in personal data because it doesn’t help the service. Johan explained that they started as a formative assessment service – something in the moment and not perpetual. That’s why students don’t sign in. Data is given right back to the teacher as an Excel or csv download. As a company, Johan said they’re focusing on how information is being learned, not what information, which is why storing scores isn’t really important. If a teacher is using it formatively, then the actual score itself should only be informing the next instructional step, not to track progress over time.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with Bob Ambrister, the developer behind Write About. Paraphrasing, he said that nothing about the student helps run the service. All they ask for is a teacher’s code (to link the student with the class) and a name. No email, no birthday, SSN, or twitter login. If it doesn’t help, Write About doesn’t want to collect it.

Johan echoed that sentiment (without prompting), which made me feel much better about using it with students. A pin to get to the quiz and a nickname. Now, we didn’t talk about storing the data on servers, but given that a student can put in whatever nickname they want, it would be pretty hard to link that information back to anything with value. The key is that they only take what matters in order to run an effective formative assessment service.

3. Transparency is more important now than ever before. Clarifying statements and human-readable TOS and Privacy Policies say a lot about the credibility of the company. If you’re willing to clearly and concisely explain what you’re collecting and what you’re doing with it, people tend to trust you more. I also like that Johan was proactive in reaching out to discuss some of the concerns I brought up.

Finally, Johan did hint at some changes the team is working on regarding transparency. I’ll update this series again once that’s pushed out.

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