House Bill aims to safeguard student privacy

May 1, 2015

 

A bill introduced this week in Congress tackles student privacy online. It would limit how educational technology companies can use the data they collect. In New York, similar rules are already in place, and they’re at work every day at one upstate school where technology is everywhere.

Sarah Latimer directs technology at Chenango Valley schools, and she thinks about privacy a lot.

“We’ve kind of had that conversation ongoing in New York for a little while now,” she says. “It’s been a very hot topic.”

Students leave behind a lot of data when they use educational technology like online quizzes and apps. The apps collect information about kids as they answer questions or play games.

A new bill in Congress aims to limit educational technology companies' use of student information.
Credit Sean MacEntee / Flicr

The bill introduced in the House of Representatives would tighten the rules for what technology companies can do with that information. It would restrict use to educational purposes and prohibit selling the data. New York state law already says tech companies can’t advertise to kids based on data, for example.

Latimer says she tries to limit how much data students give up to the apps. But Chenango Valley issues iPads to high schoolers, so that makes it hard.

“Kids can register themselves, and certainly in our district because of the iPads our 9th-12th graders make a lot of their own decisions,” she says. “They have their own emails and Apple ID's.”

The bill is a revision of an earlier draft that privacy advocates called ineffective. It has bipartisan sponsors in the House.