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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Markey-Hatch Student Data Privacy

Sens. Ed Markey and Orrin Hatch plan to circulate a "discussion draft" of a long-awaited bill to strengthen student privacy protections this afternoon.
The bill would update the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 by imposing new restrictions on school districts and on the private companies that are routinely granted access to student records in order to create online grade books, manage cafeteria accounts and perform other functions for districts.
Among the new provisions, the bill would:
• Ban the mining of students’ records to target them with advertising,
• Give parents the right to see the records private companies hold on their children — and to correct errors,
• Require private companies to delete personally identifiable information on children as soon as they leave the school system,
• Mandate that districts keep a record of all outside companies that hold student data, and make that list available to parents and
• Require districts to minimize the distribution of student data and remove personal information from records when possible.
The bill addresses several weaknesses in the student privacy law, known as FERPA. But it does not address other concerns, including the vast amount of “metadata” that private companies hold on students. That metadata can include a student’s academic progress through an online curriculum; his learning style and his location, web browsing habits and other information gleaned from tracking his use of educational resources online. Much of that information is not considered an official educational record and is thus not protected by FERPA.

Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, has been one of the most outspoken members of Congress on privacy issues. He is also pushing an update to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

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