Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced the “Protecting Student Privacy Act” last Wednesday, legislation that would help safeguard the educational records of students. The PreK-12 educational software and digital content market currently is worth $7.9 billion, with nearly all school districts relying on cloud services for a diverse range of functions that include data collection and analysis related to student performance and data hosting. However, one survey found only 25 percent of districts inform parents of their use of cloud services and 20 percent of districts fail to have policies governing the use of online services. Recent changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) have allowed for this increased sharing and use of student data in the private sector. The new legislation from Senators Markey and Hatch takes steps to ensure that students are better protected in an interconnected world. The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and John Walsh (D-Mont.).
“With the business of storing and sifting through records of students growing as fast as students are, Congress must act to ensure that safeguards are in place for data that is shared with outside companies,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “This legislation ensures the parents, not private companies, control personal information about their children and that it won’t be sold as a product on the open market. I thank Senator Hatch for his bipartisanship and attention to this issue, and I look forward working with all of my colleagues to pass this important legislation.”
“Students may well have more of their personal data stored by third parties than anyone, and the widespread storage of this information puts students at risk that this data could fall into the wrong hands,” said Senator Hatch, a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “This legislation establishes security safeguards to ensure greater transparency and access to stored information for students and parents. Further, it includes a provision banning data mining for marketing or advertising purposes and other common sense protections for students’ personally identifiable student data. I appreciate Senator Markey’s hard work and the substantial feedback we both received from students, parents, and industry stakeholders to develop this meaningful and necessary bipartisan piece of legislation.”
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
Highlights of the Protecting Student Privacy Act of 2014:
- Requires that data security safeguards be put in place to protect sensitive student data that is held by private companies;
- Prohibits the use of students’ personally identifiable information to advertise or market a product or service;
- Provides parents with the right to access the personal information about their children – and amend that information if it is incorrect – that is held by private companies;
- Makes transparent the name of all outside parties that have access to student information;
- Minimizes the amount of personally identifiable information that is transferred from schools to private companies; and
- Ensures private companies cannot maintain detailed inventories on students in perpetuity by requiring the companies to delete personally identifiable information when the information is no longer used for its specified purpose.