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Draft Bill on Student Privacy Raises Questions

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New federal student-data-privacy legislation being crafted by the White House would prohibit education technology vendors from selling student information and directing targeted advertisements at students, but the legislation remains silent on other controversial industry practices, say documents obtained by Education Week.

As of press time, the White House had yet to release details publicly.

But a draft of the proposed bill that has been circulated privately by Obama administration officials offers key insights. It is unclear if the documents obtained by Education Week represent the most recent draft or an early version that has since undergone revision.

The draft version does not contain an explicit prohibition on vendors' amassing profiles of K-12 students for noneducational uses. Nor does it prohibit vendors from collecting student information via an educational site, service, or application, then usingthat information to target advertising to students elsewhere.

"That sounds like a concession to [companies] who are broader than education," such as Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, said Douglas Levin, the executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

The draft proposal, circulated at a time when data privacy has emerged as a major concern among parents in many school districts, offers a more expansive definition of "covered information" than current law. Under the bill, "statistical inferences" that are made by companies and identifiable to individual students would be protected.

The legislation would likely not prevent companies from using information gleaned from educational apps and websites to target students with search-engine results, content, or recommendations on commercial sites elsewhere, say some analysts.

Vol. 34, Issue 20, Page 4

Published in Print: February 4, 2015, as Draft Bill on Student Privacy Raises Questions
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