​Draft of Federal Student Data Privacy Law Prompts Concern

BREACH OF PRIVACY: Education Week got a peek (paywalled) at a draft of the “Student Privacy and Innovation Act,” which President Obama called for in his speech at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on January 12. According to Benjamin Herold, the draft “focuses primarily on prohibiting targeted and behavioral advertising” and would be enforced by the FTC.

Herold compares the proposed rules with SOPIPA, California’s student data privacy law, passed in September 2014 and heralded by Obama during his January speech on data privacy. Some additions, like including “statistical inferences” made by companies as protected student information, are expansions of the California law.

Already, the federal government finds itself in a pickle as it tries to walk the tightrope between safeguarding student privacy and encouraging innovation. Unlike SOPIPA, the federal draft doesn’t explicitly prohibit vendors from assembling profiles of students for non-educational uses. Vendors would also be able to use student information collected in an educational application to target advertising to students beyond the site.

Privacy advocates have already raised concerns, like Hack Education’s Audrey Watters' and FunnyMonkey’s Bill Fitzgerald's criticism of the administration as making “huge concessions to edtech companies.”

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