Corporations Push Fake Student Privacy Protections

Students_computersWhen Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Luke Messer (R-IN) announced the introduction of a “comprehensive” student policy bill, millions of parents hoped it would mark the end of the cradle-to-grave data mining that has characterized Washington’s education policy.  Sadly, we ended up with the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act, a flawed bill that fails to prevent the collection of personal data by government and, just as worryingly, corporations.

While some parts of this bill, such as clauses allowing parents to access and remove some of their children’s data, are welcome changes, other parts of the bill allow companies increased access to student information, as well as the rights to share or sell it.  APIA’s Jane Robbins spells out some of these shortcomings:

Parents across the country are demanding legislation that restores and strengthens the protections of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and prevents private entities from exploiting their children’s personal data,” Robbins said. “The Polis/Messer bill does neither. While it contains some welcome privacy protections, it leaves unimpeded such egregious practices as psychological data-mining in the name of ‘personalized learning’, third-party use of personal data for undefined ‘K-12 purposes’, and the exploitation of children’s personal data for the benefit of the vendor.

“Psychological data mining” so that educational companies can better target their products is not what parents had in mind when they asked for better privacy protections.  Reps. Polis and Messer deserve credit for acknowledging the concerns of parental rights activists, but their bill needs serious changes if it’s going to address the data mining that prompted it in the first place.

The authority of government to collect and pass on personal data is now a national issue.  More elected official should speak out on this, and candidates for public office, especially Presidential ones, should detail their positions on data mining.

Emmett McGroarty is the executive director of APIA Education.