Privacy & Security | News

Concerns over Student Data Privacy Widespread Among Americans

A new national poll released today shows that the vast majority of Americans have concerns about student data privacy and the potential use of such data for commercial purposes.

In a survey of 800 adults conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group for nonprofit Common Sense Media, 89 percent of respondents indicated the are "very or somewhat concerned about advertisers using kids' personal data to market to them."

"What we are hearing from American families is that students' personal and private information must not be used for advertising, period," said Jim Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media. "Privacy in general is a major concern for Americans, and what we are clearly seeing from this poll is that schools should be completely off limits when it comes to collecting the personal information of students for marketing purposes. The school zone must, at all times, be a safe privacy zone. It is critical that educators, the technology industry, and our nation's leaders establish universal best practices that safeguard students' personal information that is collected by schools."

The poll also found that about 60 percent of parents surveyed have "heard little or nothing about schools letting private companies store personal data about their children. When informed that most school contracts don't limit these companies from using the information for marketing, there is overwhelming concern from both parents and non-parents around the country."

Other findings included:

  • 91 percent of respondents support requiring schools to tell parents before student information is shared with private companies;
  • 89 percent expressed support for "tighter security standards to protect students' private information that is stored 'in the cloud'; and
  • 74 percent support restricting companies from using students' browsing habits to target advertising toward them or (70 percent) building profiles of their "personal data and demographics over time."

"There is no doubt that Americans believe student information must be protected," Steyer said. "If the technology industry and educators don't take the initiative to protect students, there will be legislative action. We sincerely hope that leaders can come together quickly to address these concerns so that students can benefit from the powerful education technologies available without compromising their personal information."

Next month, Common Sense Media will host a summit on student data privacy in Washington, DC. That will be held Feb. 24. Additional details can be found on

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 25-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).