Reps. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) have introduced a bill that would prohibit operators of school services, online and otherwise, from targeting advertising to students, selling student info to third parties or creating personal profiles for non-school related purposes.
The Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015 would also require the types of information being collected be disclosed to schools and require it be protected from data breaches, and in the event of those breaches, the Federal Trade Commission be notified.
Under the bill, parents would have to authorize use of their kids information for non-educational purposes, and the ability to correct that information, or delete any information not needed by the school.
The bill does allow schools to use information to personalize and adapt instruction and aggregate it, so long as it is "de-identified" to help improve that instruction.
Last year, Reps. Polis and Messer helped develop the Student Data Privacy Pledge, a voluntary agreement signed by tech firms including Apple, Google and Microsoft. "The Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act represents an important step by Congress to establish an agreed upon framework of acceptable access, use, and sharing of education data in service of student learning," said Aimee Rogstad Guidera, president of the Data Quality Campaign, which advocates for "the safe, effective use of education data to improve student achievement."
The Software Information & Industry Association, which supported the voluntary pledge, signaled that while it supports the conversation, it also says Congress must "avoid unnecessarily adding to the patchwork of state laws and federal regulations that already govern schools and service providers. Doing so could limit student access to advanced learning technologies that are essential to modern education. For this reason, our highest priority is ensuring a student data regulatory framework that is harmonious and clear for everyone, including families, educators and the school technology sector."