Bringing high-quality, reasonably priced (sometimes free!) education to the masses, edX has completely altered the online learning landscape, and long may it reign!
However, before you have your course enrollment in one of the many online courses on offer, you might want to consider the company’s policy on data, specifically, IP addresses
So, does edX track your IP address? (Learn more about free courses here!)
Now more than ever, it’s essential that we keep our personal data and electronic customer records safe, as cybercriminals are utilizing increasingly sophisticated methods to pry and peep, so should we be concerned that edX does indeed track IP addresses, whether it be for business or commercial purposes?
Well, let’s put edX under the microscope and see what sort of stance they have on user privacy and if they employ any form of substantial security measures and protocols to protect both the company and its students.
What Should You Be Concerned About Your IP Address?
Before we dig into the juicy part of this post, let’s take a moment to establish why someone might be concerned about the tracking of their IP address.
Most websites do this with a third-party website or third-party services, and it’s almost never an issue, but should your address fall into the wrong hands, it will grant cyber ne’er do wells access to your location and online identity.
From there, not only can they find you in the real world, they can stalk your virtual life, waiting for an opportunity to steal and collect personal information and further their nefarious plot.
Why Does edX Track IP Addresses?
There are a few reasons why edX tracks user IP addresses.
To Improve edX For Users
edX isn’t just a massive educational resource for those hoping to study from the comfort of their own home; it’s an advanced research project used to analyze and improve remote learning.
To do so, the platform needs to collect information about user-disclosed data, one artifact of which is, of course, the user’s IP address.
But before you freak out, you should know that that’s not some shady discovery we’re breaking here. edX has been completely transparent about its methods and intentions from the get-go.
Any students who have done their due diligence (or even just read the edX Wiki page) will know about edX’s secondary purpose as a research project, and thus, will understand that their data will be analyzed.
As for why they need our IP addresses specifically, these codes provide locational usage information essential to the research carried out by the folks over at edX.
Catch Advanced Forms Of Cheating & User Account Sharing
Tracking IP addresses is sometimes the only way to examine advanced methods of cheating such as CAMEO (Copying Answers using Multiple Existences Online). (See ‘Can EdX Tell If You Cheat On A Course?‘)
CAMEO involves using multiple accounts to quickly fail tests and receive the answers so you can pass the same test on a “master account” without studying.
This is a breach of the edX Honor Code and can be punished in a number of ways, but it’s notoriously tricky to identify, the only known way being the analysis of timestamps and IP addresses.
edX can also crack down on account sharing by collecting user IP addresses, thus halting the illegal sharing of paid-for educational content.
Bear in mind that edX is a non-profit educational entity, and all profit gets injected back into the platform to offer users better learning experiences, so when content is shared illegally, it’s the users that suffer.
In light of this, it could be said that edX also tracks IP addresses for the sake of the user.
Should Johnny Law come knockin’ on edX’s door, requesting information on specific users, the company is obliged to acquiesce due to the applicable law, and IP addresses can be a big help to law enforcement trying to track criminals down and any other legal process.
Does edX Sell Your Personal Data?
This is where things get a little bit dicey for some.
Technically speaking, edX doesn’t sell your data, but it does kind of give it away.
They don’t hand it out to just anyone, though.
The only parties they’ll share your data with are edX partners.
For the most part, these selected business partners are esteemed educational institutions, so there are definitely worse places for your data to end up, but it still doesn’t sit right with some people.
The information is used to formulate targeted ad campaigns, primarily for pushing graduate degrees at partner universities and colleges, which may or may not be a dealbreaker for you.
Can it be annoying to be on the receiving end of this kind of marketing?
Absolutely, but we can see it being helpful for some, helping them to decide their educational path.
Does edX Protect Your Personal Data?
edX uses a myriad of security protocols to detect security incidents and keep your data secure, spanning administrative, technical, and physical safeguards, but they do not guarantee your information’s safety:
“edX controls its own copy of information collected through the edX Site and has an information security program designed to protect the information in its possession and control… Nonetheless, no method of transmission over the internet, or method of electronic storage, is 100% to make personal information secure; and therefore, edX cannot guarantee its absolute security.”
In other words, if edX directs you to third-party websites, they claim to no longer be responsible for any sensitive data transmitted or stored.
So, if you ever leave the edX ecosystem, be sure to check the privacy policies of the new forum before submitting any private information.
How Long Does edX Hold On To Your Personal Information?
edX will gather and store your personal data indefinitely.
This is to ensure your transactions are logged for financial reporting, compliance following purposes, and audits.
It’s also held in case the company needs to fulfill any legal obligation pertaining to its users.
When you decide to shut down your account, edX will erase most of your personal data within 30 days, but any that could be considered valuable for research is archived and sold as part of encrypted research data packers to members.
Users in California, on the other hand, have far more comprehensive control over their data and how it’s used.
You can opt out of any future sale of your data, you can request the deletion of your data in full (except data pertinent to legal issues), and you can request a copy of all the data edX has gathered on you over the previous 12 months.
Is There Any Way To Prevent edX From Tracking Your IP Address?
While there’s no way to completely protect your data from edX’s mining activities, you can keep your IP address on the down low by utilizing an IP anonymizer.
Also known as VPNs, anonymizers mask your IP address with another random one, usually from beyond state or national borders, thus inhibiting the tracking entity from following it back to your computer.
It’s suspected that a certain number of people using the CAMEO cheating method detailed earlier utilized an IP anonymizer to ensure they wouldn’t be caught, but not everyone that uses such safeguards is assumed to be a cheater.
If you prioritize online security and anonymity, an anonymizer is a must-have.
edX does indeed track your IP address, your contact details, for a number of reasons, chief of which is to dig up information to be used in scientific research by members, or as a means of settling legal issues during a legal process.
While this might send alarm bells ringing in your head, it’s worth bearing in mind that pretty much all online learning platforms log your private data in the same ways and for very similar reasons.
Besides, if you really want to protect your anonymity while furthering your education on edX, you can invest in a quality VPN to mask your IP address when visiting the edX site.