Feds look to protect student privacy

The Obama administration is looking to help school systems and teachers protect their students’ information online.

Guidance issued by the Department of Education on Tuesday urges educators to do their best to protect privacy while using Internet-based educational tools. It clarifies which information is covered under federal law and what the government requires of schools.

“We must provide our schools, teachers and students cutting-edge learning tools – and we must protect our children’s privacy,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “We can accomplish both – but we will have to try harder to do it.”

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The guidance does not call for new requirements on schools and teachers.

The Software and Information Industry Association, a trade group that had previously shared best practices for protecting school data, cheered the announcement.

Mark Schneiderman, the group’s senior director of education policy, said in a statement that the guidance “provides an important roadmap that will help make certain educational institutions and service providers continue to appropriately handle student information.”

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) thinks it’s just an “initial step” that needs to be expanded.

On Tuesday, he pledged to introduce a bill containing mandatory regulations to ensure that student information is protected.

“Now we need to put in place new, updated rules that ensure that as an increasing amount of student data is transferred to private companies, this sensitive information is protected,” he said in a statement.

“I plan to introduce legislation in the coming weeks that ensures information is not used to market products to kids, parents have the right to access personal information about their children that is held by private companies, and safeguards are put in place to protect this sensitive student data.”