President Obama Calls for New Initiatives to Safeguard Student Data

Providing a sneak preview of priorities that will be highlighted in his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama gave a speech at the Federal Trade Commission on January 12 where he outlined initiatives to protect consumers from identity theft and ensure that student data is used only for educational purposes.

President Obama urged Congress to act on student data privacy in 2015 and will soon release a legislative proposal titled the Student Digital Privacy Act. The bill would be modeled on legislation approved in California last year that prohibits education technology companies from selling student data to third parties for purposes unrelated to the educational mission and targeted advertising to students.

President Obama also noted that the Privacy Technical Assurance Center at the U.S. Department of Education will develop model terms of service and teacher training assistance that will “enhance our ability to help ensure educational data is used appropriately and in accordance with the educational mission.”

NASSP is encouraged by the president’s proposal to safeguard student data, which echoes the recommendations that will be finalized by our Board of Directors in February 2015. The power of technology to support education is undeniable, and NASSP has long been an advocate for maximizing the opportunities that technology presents. At the same time, principals must be able to attest to parents that the data collected for educational purposes is used only for educational purposes. Absent a mandate, principals would have to either negotiate their own guidelines with vendors or withhold crucial data from technology partners, which limits the effectiveness of the tool.

In 2014, a congressional hearing was held to address student data privacy issues and a Senate bill was introduced to update the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. While it seems most likely that Congress will consider this issue independently, there are some rumors that it could be rolled into the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is already moving quickly through the hearing process.

NASSP hope the new legislation on student data privacy will ultimately have the effect of reducing the confusion created by the patchwork of guidelines from FERPA, state regulations, and the educational technology industry itself. We look forward to working with the White House and Congress on the Student Digital Privacy Act in the months to come.

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