Policy | News

Bipartisan 'Protecting Student Privacy Act' Draft Legislation Released

New draft legislation out of the United States Senate would force school districts to release the names of every company that has access to their students' private data and would prohibit companies from using any personally identifiable information for advertising or marketing purposes.

The legislation, called the "Protecting Student Privacy Act," was released in the form of a discussion draft jointly today by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Markey has been a proponent of student privacy rights for some time and began proposing a strengthening of FERPA back in January to address the growing phenomenon of student data residing on the servers of private businesses.

Markey's comments back then raised the hackles of some in the education technology industry. However, the latest discussion draft is being received more warmly — if not with enthusiasm, at least with cautious neutrality. The Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) today responded to the draft legislation, characterizing the proposals as "reasonable."

"This draft bill is consistent with the reasonable improvements in national student privacy that Senator Markey has been talking about for months," according to Mark MacCarthy, vice president of public policy for SIIA. "We will be reviewing it carefully and look forward to working with him and Senator Hatch in the coming months to make sure that any new national student privacy legislation provides for both full privacy protection and the ability to use student data to improve learning."

The legislation is designed to "ensure that students are better protected when data is shared with and held by third parties, and parents are able to control the sensitive information of their children," according to information released by Sen. Markey's office. It proposes specifically:

  • Prohibiting the use of personally identifiable student data for advertising or marketing purposes;
  • Requiring certain safeguards be in place to protect the integrity of data in the hands of private companies;
  • Giving parents the explicit right to view their children's data and make corrections to erroneous information;
  • Making available the names of every company that has access to a district's student data;
  • Limiting the personally identifiable information that can be transferred between companies and schools; and
  • Ensuring that "private companies cannot maintain dossiers on students in perpetuity by requiring the companies to later delete personally identifiable information."

The complete text of the discussion draft can be found at markey.senate.gov.


About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidrnagel/ .