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This Week in Student Privacy: 2/17

Wisconsin: School choice advocates seek student data
School Choice Wisconsin, which “lobbies for public money to support the education of children in private schools, made requests under the state’s open record laws recently to obtain student directory information” from more than two dozen school districts. Wisconsin is considering lifting its enrollment cap on the statewide voucher program (which “would allow an unlimited number of low-income children to receive publicly funded tuition vouchers to attend private, mostly religious schools around the state”). Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, said, “We’re not saying what they did was illegal, we’re saying it’s sleazy, and given the voucher industry’s record on accountability, there are legitimate concerns about how this data is used, resold, and transmitted.” [For more: Green Bay Press Gazette and Fox11.]

House Education and the Workforce subcommittee hearing on student privacy
During a hearing on student data privacy held by the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R.), school advocates argued “that software companies must be held accountable for the trove of student information they collect.” Shannon Sevier (National Parent Teacher Association) said “the take away for today is to consider parents as partners in education and not bystanders, to always support outreach and information, to consider not just who has the data and how it’s being stored, but how it’s being used in schools.” It seems likely that we’ll be seeing some proposals soon to update FERPA. [For more: Center for Digital Education, EdWeek, EPIC,, Microsoft, McClatchyDC, NASBE.]

On deidentification of student data
Deidentification isn’t the “magic bullet” to student privacy, but is useful nonetheless, Jules Polonetsky (Future of Privacy Forum) argues at edSurge. By “understanding the general privacy protections at different de-identification levels, as well as the specific legal requirements unique to student data, ed-tech companies, and schools, researchers can successfully enable the use of data to enable the important analysis needed to improve educational outcomes while avoiding risk to students.”

Gaps in industry efforts to protect student privacy
At the NYT, Natasha Singer covers significant gaps in an industry effort to bolster student data security and privacy, through a voluntary student privacy pledge. “Of the approximately 60 companies that have signed the pledge and have websites with logins for students, teachers or parents, however, about one-fifth of them did not use basic encryption -- called Secure Socket Layer or SSL -- during the login process,” a finding uncovered by Tony Porterfield.

Additional news/resources

  • World Privacy Forum published a “Student Privacy 101” on student health information and HIPAA v. FERPA.
  • Colorado: Chalkbeat reports that two Republican-sponsored data privacy protection bills died in the House Education Committee.
  • The 2nd annual Safer Internet Day, hosted by InSafe, was covered by HuffingtonPost and eWeek. The UN is also joining the global call for child online safety.

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