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New Proposed Bill Brings Attention to Student Data and Privacy

New Proposed Bill Brings Attention to Student Data and Privacy

A proposed bill that focuses on student privacy is now circulating in Washington.

The proposed Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015 "has bipartisan sponsorship from Democratic Rep. Jared S. Polis of Colorado and Republican Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana," according to a recent NPR segment. "Drafted with White House input, the bill joins a previous Senate proposal, plus much action on the state level, from regulators, and from industry and other sector leaders."

"Consumer groups like Common Sense Media and companies like Microsoft have spoken positively of the bill," the article said. "But some student-privacy advocates are saying it doesn't go far enough in restricting what private companies can do with student data."

"It is a start to try to get at a very complex issue," said Elana Zeide, an expert on student privacy at the Information Law Institute of New York University. "But it's not going to satisfy a lot of parent advocates, because it leaves a lot of discretion to schools and companies."

Mike Goldstein "works with education clients at the law firm Cooley."

"He says there's been an 'explosion' of interest in privacy issues over the past five years," the article said. "Technological advances have schools and universities outsourcing many more basic functions than in years past. Everything from gradebooks to tests to entire academic programs, he adds, is being handled by third-party, for-profit providers."

According to the post, "these providers are capturing far more than names, addresses and end-of-term grades. In some cases, large amounts of student work, and literally millions of tiny interactions, are collected and stored in the cloud. Think of all the edits on a school paper written in Google Docs. Or all the interactions a student has with a Khan Academy math program."

NPR said that "the major federal student privacy law on the books, FERPA, doesn't have much to say about this avalanche of data. That's because it deals mainly with the security of basic demographic information collected and held by schools themselves."

"There's been a shift in focus in terms of privacy laws and regulations affecting both schools and colleges — from a focus on what the schools do, to what providers do," said Goldstein.

Read the full story and comment below.

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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