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This Week in Student Privacy: 2/10

Student-Data-Privacy Legislation Headed for the U.S. House of Representatives
According to Education Week, “[p]roposed student-data-privacy legislation being championed by President Barack Obama is being readied for introduction in the U.S. House of Representatives, perhaps as soon as the end of this month.” The bill is expected to closely resemble “the framework outlined by the president during a speech last month at the Federal Trade Commission, as well as the language in a draft bill obtained by Education Week last week.” Reps. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) announced last week “they will introduce student-data-privacy legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives,” while Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) “will take the lead on the effort in the Senate.” A White House Blog post (written by John Podesta, Counselor to the President), which reviews “Big Data and Privacy” progress made in (roughly) the last year, touches on Senate and House plans for new legislation.

White House’s Big Data and Privacy Working Group Releases Interim Progress Report
Last week, the big data and privacy working group, led by Counselor to the President John Podesta, released an interim progress reportdetailing the progress [the Big Data and Privacy Working Group members] have made — and what [they] still have ahead.” Last year, President Obama “charged [Podesta] with leading a 90-day review of big data and privacy.” The “working group found that we live in a world of near-ubiquitous data collection in which that data is being crunched at speeds increasingly approaching real time — a data revolution that presents incredible opportunities to transform health care, to boost economic productivity, and to make government work better and save taxpayer dollars.” However, the group also found that, “[at] the same time, big data technologies raise serious concerns about how we protect personal privacy and our other values, and that as “more data is collected, analyzed, and stored on both public and private systems, we must be vigilant in ensuring the balance of power is retained between government and citizens and between businesses and consumers.” The report emphasizes the importance of “Preserving Privacy Values” and of “Responsible Educational Innovation in the Digital Age.”

White House Working With Republican Congressmen to Protect Student Data
Reuters published an article about how “[t]he White House is working with a Republican congressman on the U.S. House of Representatives' leadership team and Democrats in both the House and Senate on a bill to protect data collected from students through educational apps.” According to the article, “the legislation, aimed at ensuring kids' data is used only for educational and legitimate research purposes, is the first of President Barack Obama's ‘Big Data’ privacy plans to gain traction in the Republican-controlled Congress.”

Potential Security Problems in Ed Tech Products
The New York Times’ Natasha Singer wrote a piece about “Security Flaws in Digital Education Products for Schoolchildren.” According to Singer, “nearly 20 digital education products, used collectively by millions of teachers and students” contain “potential security problems.” Singer adds that, “[w]hile none of the [digital education products’] security weaknesses appear to have been exploited by hackers, some technologists say they are symptomatic of widespread lapses in student data protection across the education technology sector.” Technologists warn that “insecure learning sites, apps and messaging services could potentially expose students, many of them under 13, to hacking, identity theft, cyberbullying by their peers, or even unwanted contact from strangers.”

Student Privacy Pledge Reaches 100 Signatories
Last week, the Future of Privacy Forum and the Software & Information Associationannounced that the groundbreaking Student Privacy Pledge now has 108 signatories.” Some signatories include several big name ed tech companies such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft.

Additional Articles/Resources

  • Chalkbeat Colorado published an article about a “new bipartisan student data privacy bill” that “would impose requirements on outside vendors such as software and database companies that handle information about Colorado students” and would “prohibit vendors from doing targeted advertising based on student information, creating student profiles, selling student information or disclosing student information in most circumstances.” See the bill text here.
  • Julie Hirschfeld Davis for The New York Times wrote a piece about how last week “the White House accelerated its bolster data privacy laws.” The article touched on the White House’s “student-privacy initiative.”
  • published an article about how a legislator from Idaho recently “introduced form a task force to study how the state and local school districts handle that precious information [about student performance].”
  • Last week, StriveTogether released two new publications designed to help communities responsibly use student data and effectively partner with schools on data-driven ways to improve education outcomes.” The publications can be found here and here.
  • Ohio’s The Lima News published a piece about the constitutional implications of “new guidelines that empower schools to force a student to hand over his or her passwords to social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter if a student is using a computer to violate school rules.”

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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