Legislation Would Limit How Education Companies Use Students’ Online Data

With the use of technology now tightly tied to education, consumer advocates and parent groups have increasingly voiced concern about how student data is used. New legislation aims to alleviate worries over the exploitation of students’ personal information by placing restrictions on how that data can be used by third-party technology companies. Schools around the country rely on third-party education tech companies to provide services like student e-mail accounts, homework portals, and digital grade books. According to the New York Times, the  the soon-to-be introduced Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act will place limits on what these companies are allowed to do with this data.

Under the bill, technology companies would be prohibited from knowingly using or disclosing students’ personal information to tailor advertisements to them, as well as bar the companies from collecting or using student data to create marketing profiles.

If the bill passes muster, it would also require education vendors to delete students’ records should a school make such a request. Additionally, the companies must allow parents or educators to view and make revisions to student information.

While federal education privacy laws already require schools to maintain control over education records, some critics say those controls have been outpaced by education technology companies.

For example, the Times reports that career planning site ConnectEDU attempted to sell its database of student information including academic, personal and career details during bankruptcy proceedings last year. Eventually, regulators intervened, but advocates say the ordeal highlights one of the fundamental problems with education technology companies and the loose restrictions they face.

The bill’s authors, Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado and Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana, say the legislation is the first step in addressing student privacy, while allowing education to evolve with the use of technology.

Still, the Times reports that privacy experts say the drafted legislation contains loopholes that would allow companies to use private student information for some non-education purposes, such as disclosing information for preparing “employment opportunities.”

Bill Would Limit Use of Student Data [The New York Times]

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