AAEEBL Digital Ethics Principles: version 1

Principle 6: Privacy

ePortfolio creators should have ultimate control over public access to their portfolios and the ability to change the privacy settings at any time.

ABSTRACT: Students should be able to alter and explain their privacy and sharing settings as owners of their ePortfolios. Administrators, educators, and staff must be prepared to have these conversations with students.

Strategies for applying this principle include...

  • Becoming familiar with all privacy settings available in the ePortfolio system, such as the ability to make an ePortfolio password-protected or “shareable” but not public. 
  • Prioritizing tools that optimize customization of permissions and permit page-level permissions.
  • Acknowledging that how ePortfolio platforms interact with third parties can challenge students’ right to privacy. 
  • Preparing educators, administrators, staff, and students to understand the ways in which student privacy might be challenged via data mining, tracking, etc.
  • Balancing the ePortfolio creator’s right to privacy and the efficacy of the ePortfolio program’s sharing capabilities.


Scenario #1:

When you are a first-year student, you are asked to provide a personal memoir in a public-facing ePortfolio in your composition course. You offer a narrative that is personally significant but has coming-of-age elements. Later, when you apply for a position as a high school educator, you realize that this story may no longer reflect the identity you would like to project online. You remove the public access from your portfolio, as the course for which you created it is long over. You do not delete it though, as you want to keep it as a record of your learning. When navigating the process of removing public permissions from your site, you have access to institutional resources that offer guidance. After you follow the directions in these resources, online search for content from this portfolio does not bring up any results. 

To sustain a digital presence--but one that better aligns with your current professional identity--you create a second portfolio that includes learning evidence and reflections from your studies that are appropriate to share in your portfolio for employability purposes. You limit the access to that portfolio to your potential employers by providing them with an access token or password, depending on the options your ePortfolio platform provides.

Scenario #2:

You are a student. You have a portfolio component in a number of your courses this term. Depending on your class, you are asked to create different types of portfolios. In one class, you create a portfolio for assessment purposes, in your internship requirement you create a developmental portfolio, and for your writing class, you create a showcase portfolio that you can share with future employers.

For each different portfolio purpose, you can define the audience who shall have access to it, as not everything can be shared publicly. Your internship mentor, for example, does not want any confidential data to be made public and only allows you to include images if the portfolio is shared only with your internship advisor at your institution. In contrast, your showcase portfolio is going to be public, allowing you to share it widely with future employers. You are conscious of only including multimedia content and reflections that follow your institution’s copyright guidelines and agreed on terms with people that appear in that content. You want to feature an experience you have working in a biology lab in this showcase portfolio. When talking about experiences you have working in the lab, you also do not publish confidential data but rather focus on the transferrable skills that this experience has taught you.

Scenario #3:

You are a student. You are developing an ePortfolio for your capstone course and have been asked to publish your in-process site so that you can participate in a peer review activity. You know that the site is not ready for public access, but you also know that you need to publish it so that your peer can review the site. 

Your educator has given you options for how to share your site with your peer: you can publicly publish the site so that it is searchable to outside audiences, you can publish the site but keep the link unsearchable, or you can password-protect the site and give your peer the password so that they alone can access the site. In reflecting on your needs for the peer review, you decide to password-protect the site and share this password with your peer. Later, when you are ready for your educator to view the finished site, you will reflect on these privacy options again and decide on the best option for maintaining your preferred level of privacy. 


    1. Brown Wilson, C., Slade, C., Kirby, M. M., Downer, T., Fisher, M. B., & Nuessler, S. (2018). Digital ethics and the use of ePortfolio: A scoping review of the literature. International Journal of EPortfolio, 8(2), 115–125.
    2. Hocutt, D., & Brown, M. (2018). Globalizing the composition classroom with Google Apps for Education. In R. Rice & K. St. Amant (Eds.), Thinking globally, composing locally: Rethinking online writing in the age of the global internet (pp. 320–339). University Press of Colorado.
    3. Klein, L. F. (2013). The Social ePortfolio: Integrating social media and models of learning in academic ePortfolios. In K. V. Wills & R. Rice (Eds.), ePortfolio performance support systems: Constructing, presenting, and assessing portfolios (pp. 57–74). WAC Clearinghouse. 

This document was created by the AAEEBL Digital Ethics Task Force: Amy Cicchino (Auburn University), Megan Haskins (Auburn University), Megan Crowley-Watson (Edward Waters College), Elaine Gray (Appalachian State University), Morgan Gresham (University of South Florida), Kristina Hoeppner (Catalyst, New Zealand), Kevin Kelly (San Francisco State University), Megan Mize (Old Dominion University), Christine Slade (University of Queensland), Heather Stuart (Auburn University), and Sarah Zurhellen (Appalachian State University)

  Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

This page has paths:

Contents of this path:

This page references: