Bill aims to protect student privacy in tech-heavy classrooms


A House bill introduced Wednesday would place limits on how technology companies use data from students that employ their devices and programs in the classroom.

The measure from Reps. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) would bar school technology providers from targeting advertising to students, selling students’ information to third parties and creating profiles of students for non-educational purposes.

{mosads}At the same time, the proposal allows providers to use data to personalize students’ learning and, when the information is de-identified, to improve their products.

The bill’s authors touted their effort as the “most significant federal attempt to protect student data in decades,” and a necessary answer to the exploding use of technology in the classroom.

“The status quo surrounding the protection of our student’s data is entirely unacceptable,” Polis said in a statement.

“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.”

Messer said the bill strikes the correct balance between the promoting the benefits of technology in schools while supporting parents’ rights.

“Evolving technology is changing the way teachers instruct and students learn in the 21st Century.  With that comes new threats to student data privacy that never existed before,” he said in a statement.

The bill places several regulatory requirements on technology companies that serve schools.

So-called operators must disclose publicly the types of student information they collect and how they will e used, as well as maintain strong security procedures to prevent data breaches.

Parents also gain certain rights under the bill, including the ability to access, correct and, in some cases, delete a student’s information.

While the bill was greeted by the Data Quality Campaign, Common Sense Kids Action, and “nearly two-dozen” other groups, per the authors, a trade group representing the software industry seemed to take a wait-and-see approach.

“While there are already multiple layers of student privacy protection in place, it makes sense to review policies and practices,” said SIIA Vice President of Public Policy Mark MacCarthy in a statement.

“As it considers privacy legislation, Congress must avoid unnecessarily adding to the patchwork of state laws and federal regulations that already govern schools and service providers. Doing so could limit student access to advanced learning technologies that are essential to modern education.”


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