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This Week in Student Privacy: 12/16

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Does FERPA apply to MOOCs?
Two weeks ago at a symposium on student privacy, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Kathleen Styles, the DOE’s Chief Privacy Officer, said, “‘Data in the higher-education context for MOOCs is seldom Ferpa-protected,’” because MOOCs are rarely funded with Title IV dollars from the federal government. At least one high-profile university and one high-profile commercial MOOC platform appear to disagree with each other on the question: while edX (non-profit) states that it “‘is subject to and will comply with all Ferpa requirements governing the use and redisclosure of personally identifiable information,’” Coursera (for-profit) follows the “‘principles’” of FERPA but “doesn’t think it applies to MOOCs.”

Oregon: Attorney General advocating for student bill of rights online
Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon’s Attorney General, testified before a joint meeting of Oregon’s House and Senate Judiciary committees in support of the adoption of a bill to protect student privacy. The bill would be similar to California’s Student Online Personal Information Protection Act, signed in September by Governor Jerry Brown. Argued Rosenblum: “‘We essentially need a consumer bill of rights so that people know what their rights are online.’” Video: Rosenblum discusses weakness in the state’s online privacy laws here.

Additional Articles/Resources

  • In a two-part series at THE Journal, Dian Schaffhauser interviews attorney Bret Cohen on student data privacy. Part one covers “teacher use of online services that use or generate student data”. Part two examines “issues related to student privacy that districts and schools themselves should consider.”
  • Louisiana: Educators and school districts are now moving ahead with implementing the student privacy bill signed in June by Governor Bobby Jindal. “By June of 2015, parents must sign a consent form, before their child's schools can release information through LOSFA Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, for students in grades 8th through 12th.”
  • Learnosity, a Common Core assessment platform, joined the Student Privacy Pledge created by the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA). For more about the pledge, check out
  • Alabama: In Piedmont Schools, students in kindergarten to third grade use mobile technology in their classes, and students in grades four through 12 receive laptops for their use. The Anniston Star reports on how the district is handling social media and digital citizenship.
  • MediaPost has a few suggestions for how companies with teen consumers can think about privacy and their consumers.
  • This update was compiled by Hannah Offer. Hannah is a senior at the Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences and a research assistant for the Student Privacy Initiative.

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