Amid growing concerns about the security of student data, Sens. Ed Markey and Orrin Hatch plan to introduce a bill this morning updating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. The bipartisan bill uses federal funding for leverage, declaring that school districts must meet new rules for protecting privacy in order to receive education funds. It prohibits the use of personally identifiable information to target advertising to students, requires districts to minimize distribution of identifiable data and mandates that any company or organization receiving the data have comprehensive security policies in place.
Democrat Ed Markey of Massachusetts
The bill also gives parents the right to see the information that third parties, including for-profit companies, hold on their children. And if the information is inaccurate, misleading or inappropriate for inclusion in the file, parents have the right to demand corrections. The bill also requires companies holding identifiable information about students to destroy it after completing the specific task for which they obtained the data. "This bipartisan legislation ensures that parents, not schools and companies, control personal information about their children and that sensitive student data won't be sold as a product on the open market," Markey told Morning Education.
Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah
But the bill leaves open a huge loophole. The protections in the bill apply only to students' educational records. These days, private companies collect huge amounts of data that is not considered part of the official student file. Children's progress through online tutorials, textbooks, games and apps would not be part of their educational record in most cases. Neither would the vast streams of "metadata" that companies collect as students work online - including intimate information about their learning styles and work habits, such as how long they persevere at challenging tasks or how often they take breaks. Companies also collect information about students' locations, their browsers and the web pages they visit before and after jumping on an educational site. None of that information would be protected under the Markey-Hatch bill.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Protecting Student Privacy
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