Digital Privacy And Parental Rights Act Would Put Restrictions On The Use Of Student Data Online

Students are more dependent than ever on technology and the Internet for their education, but those same apps and online learning tools that help educate them could be putting their personal information at risk if shared improperly. Nearly a month after it was first expected, a pair of U.S. representatives have introduced a bill aiming to restrict third-party use of students’ sensitive personal data.

The New York Times Bits blog reports that the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015 [PDF] was introduced with the intention to strengthen digital privacy protections for students in kindergarten though twelfth grade.

Under the bill – which was introduced by representatives Jared Polis of Colorado and Luke Messer of Indiana – technology companies would be prohibited from knowingly using or disclosing students’ personal information to tailor advertisements to them, as well as barring the companies from creating personal profiles of students unless it is for a school-related purpose.

The bill also requires technology companies to allow parents or educators to view and make revisions to student information, as well as request information be deleted if it is not needed for retention by schools. Parents would also be able to download any material their child has created through the service.

Although privacy and consumer groups previously expressed a desire for the bill to require companies to delete student information in the event of a merger or sale, the newly introduced legislation allows companies to sell or disclose student information as part of a merger or acquisition, provided the new owner continues to abide by restrictions in place when the data was first collected.

Companies would also be able to use and disclose aggregated unidentifiable student information in order to improve their own educational products or market their effectiveness.

Polis says in a statement that the bill, which was modeled in part by student privacy laws in California, was a needed improvement on current standards protecting student data.

“The status quo surrounding the protection of our student’s data is entirely unacceptable,” Polis said. “It’s like the Wild Wild West – there are few regulations protecting student’s privacy and parental rights, and the ones that do exist were written in an age before smartphones and tablets.”

He goes on to say that while the bill provides piece-of-mind to parents and consumer groups, it continue to encourage innovation and the evolution of education technology.

While Polis and Messer say that more than two dozen education groups, parent associations, industry leaders, and privacy advocates have backed the bill, the Times reports it faces a difficult battle by the opposition.

Legislators Introduce Student Digital Privacy Bill [The New York Times Bits Blog]