Lawmakers eye new student privacy law

House lawmakers are taking early steps to heed President Obama’s call and institute new safeguards for information about students.

One key student privacy law has not been meaningfully updated in four decades, lawmakers on a House subcommittee said Thursday, even as new technology makes data about students' education easier than ever to obtain. 

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“As a father of two young boys, I can appreciate why parents may not have that same confidence today,” said Rep. Todd RokitaTheodore (Todd) Edward RokitaLobbying world Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations House passes year-end tax package MORE (R-Ind.), the head of the Education and the Workforce subcommittee on elementary and secondary education.

“Despite the advent of computers, the Internet, Wi-Fi, cloud services, et cetera, [the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)] has not been significantly updated since its introduction in 1974,” he added. “As a result, student privacy — the very information FERPA was intended to protect — may be at risk.”

The law was meant to protect records about students’ education and empower their parents to access or share it. It has not been updated to include new ways information is collected with the proliferation of computers, software and mobile applications that help students learn and track their progress.

Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeHarris wins endorsement of former CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge The Hill's Morning Report — DOJ's planned executions stir new debate Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment MORE (D-Ohio), the subcommittee’s ranking member, agreed that the law should be updated to “balance privacy and innovation,” so that new types of technologies are not cut off before they can blossom. 

Despite the general agreement for an update, however, lawmakers appeared to have few prescriptions for what to do, which could foreshadow long months of work on the issue.

With the backing of the White House, Reps. Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisColorado governor pokes fun at FaceApp Number of openly LGBTQ elected officials rose nearly 25 percent since 2018: report GOP gun rights activist arrested for flashing handgun at U.S. marshal MORE (D-Colo.) and Luke Messer (R-Ind.) earlier this year introduced legislation to prevent data collected by education companies from being used to target advertisements back to them.  

“The question is when it comes to kids’ personal information, do the schools and the government own it and can they sell it?” Polis asked during the hearing on Thursday. “The answer should be, without the parents' consent, no, they don’t have that ability."