Senate Privacy Bill Puts Constraints on Student Data Use

New legislation introduced today in the United States Senate aimed at curtailing the use of student data for commercial purposes and requiring vendors to secure data and provide access to parents.

Among other things, the SAFE KIDS Act ("Safeguarding American Families from Exposure by Keeping Information and Data Secure") prohibits technology vendors and service providers from:

  • Using student data for advertising purposes;
  • Selling student data;
  • Disclosing student data to other providers except as prescribed.

It also requires vendors to conform to security rules to protect student data, delete data after a fixed period (or when requested by a parent), gain consent from schools over the types of data that will be collected and disclose privacy policies. Vendors must also provide access to parents and must comply with parental requests to correct data when it is in error.

The bill does allow vendors to use data collected for the purpose of personalizing student learning and to disclose aggregate data for academic research purposes.

It gives the Federal Trade Commission responsibility for enforcement.

The SAFE KIDS Act is co-sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

"The perils of privacy invasion and data abuse must be stopped at the classroom door with laws that match advancing technology," Sen. Blumenthal said in a prepared statement. "As classrooms increasingly rely on technology like apps and cloud services to bolster learning, the advances unfortunately pose an urgent, pressing concern – student data can be peddled for revenue. The SAFE KIDS Act will establish strong, vital protections for a child's personal, private data – safeguarding students' information and empowering parents to prevent abuse."

"As the father of four children, I know firsthand the importance of ensuring that as technology continues to rapidly evolve our kids' security and privacy are protected," Sen. Daines said, also in prepared remarks.  "Securing students' digital information is critical to ensuring that our kids' privacy is protected. By placing power back in hands of students, parents and schools we can make progress towards protecting the privacy of our children."

One education technology trade group, the Consortium for School Networking, today announced its support for the bill.

CoSN CEO Keith Krueger released a statement saying, "Protecting student data is a responsibility that requires deep commitment from school leaders, educators, and community members. To that end, the nation's district technology leaders are invested in creating a culture in all schools nationwide that students and their families trust. Senators Blumenthal and Daines provide a strong starting point for discussion to thoughtfully address student privacy and data use. We look forward to working with them and their Congressional colleagues in the weeks and months ahead."

The complete text of the bill is available online as a PDF via senate.gov.

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 29-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 @THEDavidNagel (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).