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Major Ed Tech Companies Sign Student Data Privacy Pledge

Mark SchneidermanThe Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) today announced a K-12 school service providers’ pledge designed to safeguard student privacy. The Student Privacy Pledge is built around a dozen principles regarding the collection, maintenance and use of students’ personal information.

The voluntary pledge was developed by the FPF and SIIA with guidance from school service providers, educator organizations and other stakeholders, following a convening by U.S. Representatives Jared Polis (CO) and Luke Messer (IN).

Messer, who serves on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said that the pledge “will better inform the debate about what, if any, legislative remedy may be needed to ensure that child privacy is protected and this information is only used for academic purposes."

Mark Schneiderman (pictured), senior director of education policy for SIIA, added, “Current law provides extensive restrictions on the use of student information, and this industry pledge will build on and detail that protection.”

The pledge would apply to all student personal information, whether or not it is viewed as part of an "educational record" as defined by federal law, and whether it has been collected and controlled by the school but warehoused offsite by a service provider or collected directly through students’ use of a mobile app or website assigned by a teacher. The pledge would also apply to school service providers whether or not they have a formal contract with the school.

The pledge states that school service providers are accountable to:

  • not sell student information;
  • not behaviorally target advertising;
  • use data for authorized education purposes only;
  • not change privacy policies without notice and choice;
  • enforce strict limits on data retention;
  • support parental access to, and correction of errors in, their children’s  information;
  • provide comprehensive security standards; and
  • be transparent about collection and use of data.

An initial leadership group of companies that joined SIIA and FPF in introducing and signing the pledge includes Amplify, Code.org, DreamBox Learning, Edmodo, Follett, Gaggle, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Knewton, Knovation, Lifetouch, Microsoft, MIND Research Institute, myON and Think Through Math.

Amplify’s CEO Joel Klein said that the principles laid out in the pledge “are essential for protecting student data and privacy. Amplify has always lived by them. It's past time for others to do the same.”

Bill Bowman, vice president for information security at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, added, “The pledge offers a straightforward mechanism for us to demonstrate our dedication to protecting student privacy. It is a very clear set of commitments that will help answer questions regarding the protection and use of data for students, families and schools.”

Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association, said that vendors who take the pledge “are demonstrating their public commitment to responsible data practices in a manner that will help support school boards’ efforts to safeguard student privacy.”

Aimee Rogstad Guidera, founder and executive director of Data Quality Campaign, a national nonprofit that advocates for the effective use of educational data to improve student achievement, concluded, “Education benefits from innovation; the creativity and new tools and resources developed by school service providers are critical to reaching our goal of preparing every child in this country for success. This pledge reinforces their commitment to the laws that guide them and the effective practices that ensure the success of the schools they support.”

The full text of the pledge and more information about how to support it are available here.

About the Author

Christopher Piehler is the former editor-in-chief of THE Journal.

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