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
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.