We write in advance of the 94th pre-session of the Committee on Rights of the Child and its adoption of a list of issues prior to reporting regarding Argentina’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This submission covers articles 16 and 17 of the Convention and is based on the findings of a global investigation conducted by Human Rights Watch of 163 education technology (EdTech) products endorsed for children’s learning during the Covid-19 pandemic by 49 countries, including Argentina. The investigation found that the Argentine government violated children’s rights through its authorized EdTech products.
Children’s Rights Abuses by Government-Endorsed Online Learning during the Covid-19 Pandemic (articles 16 and 17)
In a global investigation of education technology (EdTech) products endorsed by the world’s most populous countries for children’s education during the pandemic, Human Rights Watch found that the Argentine government directly violated children’s right to privacy and other rights.
Human Rights Watch analyzed Educ.ar and Juana Manso, two EdTech websites that were built and used by Argentina’s education ministry as its primary means of delivering online education to children during the pandemic. Both sites provided children with “virtual classrooms, resources, and tools to accompany you during the health emergency,” “until normal functioning of classes resume.”
Educ.ar was found to be surveilling children not only within its online learning platform, but also tracking them across the internet, outside of school hours and deep into their personal lives. Educ.ar collected and sent this data to Google and Meta using advertising-specific tracking technologies built by these two companies, which enabled both Educ.ar and these third-party companies to track and target children across the internet for advertising purposes.
For example, one of the three ad trackers found embedded on Educ.ar sent children’s data to Google’s advertising platform via the domain doubleclick.net. Educ.ar also transmitted children’s data to Google through its use of Google Analytics’ ‘remarketing audiences,’ an advertising technology (AdTech) tool that allows Educ.ar to target its users with ads across the internet.
Human Rights Watch also observed Educ.ar collecting and sending children’s data to Meta through an ad tracker and through Facebook Pixel, an AdTech tool that could not only be used by Educ.ar to later target its child users with ads on Facebook and Instagram, but also allowed Meta to retain and use this data for its own advertising purposes.
In doing so, Educ.ar permitted these companies the opportunity to stitch together and analyze the data they received to guess at a child’s personal characteristics and interests (“profiling”), and to predict what a child might do next and how they might be influenced. Access to these insights could then be sold to anyone—advertisers, data brokers, and others—who sought to target a defined group of people with similar characteristics online.
Profiling and targeting children on the basis of their actual or inferred characteristics not only impermissibly infringes on their privacy, but also risks abusing or violating their other rights, particularly when this information is used to anticipate and guide them toward outcomes that are harmful or not in their best interests. This committee has warned that such processing and use of children’s data “may result in violations or abuses of children’s rights” and has called on states to “prohibit by law the profiling or targeting of children of any age for commercial purposes on the basis of a digital record of their actual or inferred characteristics, including group or collective data, targeting by association or affinity profiling.”
Human Rights Watch finds that these tracking techniques, designed solely for advertising and commercial purposes, are neither proportionate nor necessary for Educ.ar to function or to deliver educational content. Their use on children in an educational setting arbitrarily interferes with children’s right to privacy.
Human Rights Watch did not find evidence that the education ministry took measures to prevent or mitigate children’s rights abuses through Educ.ar’s data practices, or that the education ministry checked whether Educ.ar was safe for children to use. As a result, children whose families were able to afford access to the internet and connected devices, or who made hard sacrifices in order to do so, were exposed to the risks of misuse or exploitation of their data.
Neither the education ministry nor Google responded to Human Rights Watch’s request for comment. In its response, Meta did not address whether it was receiving children’s user data from Educ.ar, and said that it was their customers’ responsibility to comply with their policies and applicable laws that prohibit the collection of children’s data.
Human Rights Watch found that Juana Manso protected its child users’ privacy by not installing any tracking technologies.
This demonstrates that it is possible for the Argentine government to uphold its obligations to protect and promote children’s rights by building and offering online learning to children that do not compromise their data and their privacy.
Human Rights Watch recommends that the Committee ask the government of Argentina:
- Does the government have plans to develop and enforce comprehensive child data protection laws?
- What recourse or remedy does the government provide, or is planning to provide, to children who have experienced infringements of their rights as a result of their use of Educ.ar and whose data remain at risk of misuse and exploitation?
Human Rights Watch recommends that the Committee call on the government of Argentina to:
- Adopt child-specific data protection laws that address the significant child rights impacts of the collection, processing, and use of children’s personal data. Where child data protection laws already exist, Argentina should update and strengthen implementation to deliver a comprehensive child data protection framework that protects the best interests of the child in complex online environments, and ensures that companies respect children’s rights and are held accountable if they fail to do so.
- Provide remedies for children whose data were collected through their use of Educ.ar. To do so, the appropriate authorities should:
- Immediately remove all ad tracking technologies from Educ.ar, and delete any children’s data collected during the pandemic.
- Immediately notify and guide affected schools, teachers, parents, and children to prevent further collection and misuse of children’s data.
- Require AdTech companies to identify and immediately delete any children’s data they received from Educ.ar during the pandemic.
- Ensure that any services that are endorsed or procured to deliver online education are safe for children. In coordination with data protection authorities and other relevant institutions, the education ministry should:
- Require all actors providing digital educational services to children to identify, prevent, and mitigate negative impacts on children’s rights, including across their business relationships and global operations.
- Require child data protection impact assessments of any educational technology provider seeking public investment, procurement, or endorsement.
- Ensure that public and private educational institutions enter into written contracts with EdTech providers that include protections for children’s data.
- Define and provide special protections for categories of sensitive personal data that should never be collected from children in educational settings.
 Human Rights Watch, “How Dare They Peep into My Private Life?”: Children’s Rights Violations by Governments that Endorsed Online Learning during the Covid-19 Pandemic (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2022), https://www.hrw.org/report/2022/05/25/how-dare-they-peep-my-private-life/childrens-rights-violations-governments.
 Argentina Ministry of Education, “The Ministry of Education presented the program ‘Seguimos Educando,’” (“El Ministerio de Educación presentó el programa Seguimos Educando,”) March 16, 2020, https://web.archive.org/web/20220131101156/https://www.argentina.gob.ar/noticias/el-ministerio-de-educacion-presento-el-programa-seguimos-educando (accessed May 9, 2021); Argentina Ministry of Education, “New Juana Manso Federal Platform with Virtual, Free and Safe Classrooms for Students and Teachers” (“Nueva Plataforma Federal Juana Manso con aulas virtuales, gratuitas y seguras para estudiantes y docentes,”) August 20, 2020, https://www.argentina.gob.ar/noticias/nueva-plataforma-federal-juana-manso-con-aulas-virtuales-gratuitas-y-seguras-para (accessed May 9, 2021).
 Juana Manso, “Juana Manso – Plan Federal,” https://web.archive.org/web/20210505094239/https://recursos.juanamanso.edu.ar/home (accessed May 9, 2021).
 Argentina Ministry of Education, “educ.ar,” https://web.archive.org/web/20210301041008/https://www.educ.ar/ (accessed March 2, 2021).
 Human Rights Watch, “Privacy Snapshot: Argentina: educ.ar,” June 2021, https://features.hrw.org/features/StudentsNotProducts/files/privacy_snapshots/Privacy%20Snapshot%20-%20Argentina%20educar.pdf.
 United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 25 on Children’s Rights in Relation to the Digital Environment, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/GC/25 (2021), para. 40.
 Ibid., para. 42.
 “Condiciones Generales de Uso,” Educ.ar, https://web.archive.org/web/20210302215636/https://usuarios.educ.ar/terminos-y-condiciones (accessed March 2, 2021).
 Human Rights Watch correspondence with Miranda Sissons, Director, Human Rights Policy, Meta, April 15, 2022.
 Human Rights Watch, “Privacy Snapshot: Argentina: Juana Manso,” June 2021, https://features.hrw.org/features/StudentsNotProducts/files/privacy_snapshots/Privacy%20Snapshot%20-%20Argentina%20Juana%20Manso.pdf.