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This Week in Student Privacy: 1/26

Illinois Students Now Required to Give Schools Access to Social Media Accounts
A new statewide Illinois anti-cyberbullying law, which came into effect January 1st, “requires that elementary and secondary schools students provide social media passwords” to school officials if there is “reasonable cause to believe [a] student’s social media account has evidence he or she violated a disciplinary rule or policy.” According to The Guardian, “[s]ome Illinois parents have already expressed concern after receiving letters from school districts informing them about the new rules.” In response to concerns from parents, Superintendent Leigh Lewis of the Triad Community Unit School District #2 said “‘[t]he district understands student privacy interests … and will not haphazardly request social media passwords unless there is a need, and will certainly involve parents throughout the process.’”

Youth Privacy Lawsuit Against Google & Viacom Dismissed
Last week, Google and Viacom “won the dismissal of a nationwide privacy lawsuit accusing them of illegally tracking the Internet activity of boys and girls [under 13] who visited Nickelodeon's website, in order to send targeted advertising.” According to Bloomberg, “consumers claimed Viacom compiled unique electronic identifying information about children who used its website, sending that data to Google.” In addition, the lawsuit said “both companies then without permission put text files known as ‘cookies’ into the children's computers, letting them gather additional information that advertisers could use.” U.S. District Judge Stanley Chesler said that “lawyers for the children failed to show Viacom violated the Video Privacy Protection Act, or that either company broke the New Jersey Computer Related Offenses Act.”

Student Privacy Pledge Reaches 90 Signatories
Last week, the Future of Privacy Forum announced that several companies, including Google and Khan Academy, had signed the Student Privacy Pledge, joining several other big name ed tech companies such as Apple and Microsoft in an effort to protect student privacy. For more information on this story, visit The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

Additional Articles/Resources


  • Maria Naughton for the New Canaan Advisor wrote a piece about increasing student privacy concerns.
  • THEJournal published a about the FETC 2015 convention and “predictions for the future of data privacy.” SPI’s very own Leah Plunkett and Paulina Haduong are featured!

State of the Union/FTC Speech Reactions

  • Michael Horn for Forbes wrote a piece on how “President Obama further elevated education to the national agenda in his State of the Union address with a focus on making community colleges free for students and protecting student privacy.”
  • Fred Humphries, Vice President of U.S. Government Affairs at Microsoft, wrote about President Obama’s FTC speech two weeks ago, during which the president “touched on . . . how [privacy] protections extend to K-12 students, including the expanded role and benefits of technology in the classroom and the accompanying need for greater privacy protections for student data.”
  • Sara Kloek, Director of Moms with Apps, wrote a piece for the Huffington Post “responding to the President’s call for student privacy.” Featured in the piece are some tips for parents to safeguard their children’s data.
  • EdSurge published a “Highlights from 2015 State of the Union.”
  • Education Week published a recap of the State of the Union as well.
  • The National Law Review published a recap of President Obama’s State of the Union Address and his speech at the FTC two weeks ago.
  • Education Week published an article about President Obama’s recent proposal at the FTC of “a new Student Digital Privacy Act.”

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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Student Privacy Initiative

The Student Privacy Initiative-- part of the Center's growing suite of Privacy Initiatives-- aims to surface, identify, and evaluate central privacy issues and opportunities that…