Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act introduced in House

The bill was introduced Wednesday with some revisions that would improve transparency regarding how student information is shared, used or sold.
The bill was introduced Wednesday with some revisions that would improve transparency regarding how student information is shared, used or sold.

A student privacy bill, which lawmakers promised to bring before the House in bipartisan effort, was introduced by Reps. Luke Messer, R-Ind., and Jared Polis, D-Color., on Wednesday.

The Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act would restrict how educational data belonging to K-12 students can used by businesses. Polis and Messer announced that nearly two dozen organizations spanning the technology, privacy and educational space have backed the bill in its current form, including tech giant Microsoft, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), the International Society for Technology and Education, and the National Education Association.

“The status quo surrounding the protection of our students' data is entirely unacceptable,” Polis said in a statement. “It's like the Wild Wild West – there are few regulations protecting student's privacy and parental rights, and the ones that do exist were written in an age before smartphones and tablets. Our bipartisan bill is a much-needed first step in providing a framework that can address these concerns of parents and educators while at the same time allowing for the promise of education technology to transform our schools.”

The lawmakers' efforts follow President Obama's call to Congress in January to put forth legislation that would further protect student data. And after revealing last month that they would co-sponsor such a bill, Messer and Polis released the 21-page bill (PDF) to the public this week.

In its current form, the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015 prohibits operators – meaning  any entity that provides "online and similar services to educational agencies or institutions” – from engaging in targeted advertising on a school service or collecting, generating, using or disclosing “any covered information for purposes of targeted advertising,” the bill said.

The legislation also bans operators from selling covered information, meaning personally identifiable information (PII) or data that is linkable to PII, to a third party, and from creating personal profiles of students for non-school related purposes.

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