So President Obama Wants to Protect Student Data

obama-immigration-speechPresident Barack Obama wants to now protect student data recognizing it as a problem as FERPA needs to be updated as it was not written with computers, etc. in mind.

Stephanie Simon at Politico reported on Sunday that the President wants a federal bill similar to California’s SB 1177.

Obama is expected to urge Congress to impose a bevy of restrictions on companies that operate websites, apps and cloud-computing services aimed at the K-12 market, according to sources briefed on the announcement.

The president is likely to cite as a model a landmark California law that passed last year with huge bipartisan support.

Once it takes effect next January, the California law will bar education technology companies from selling student data or using that data to target them with advertising. It specifically protects a long list of data that private companies might have access to through their work with schools, including students’ grades, medical records, test scores, photos, text messages, food purchases, political affiliations, voice recordings and disciplinary records. Companies are also banned from creating profiles of students except “in furtherance of K-12 school purposes” — which critics point out could include developing further ed-tech products for profit.

A federal version of the California law would vastly expand the narrow student privacy protections now on the books.

Of course to draw attention to this new initiative President Obama he will hold campaign style meetings.

On the surface, I’m happy this is going to be focused on, if for nothing else than the media coverage it will provide.

Some red flags for me.  The entire focus is on the private-sector.  I’d be more excited about this bill if it was also directed at governmental agencies.

We also have states that have statewide longitudinal database systems thanks to President Obama’s stimulus funds.  Frankly the Obama administration caused much of the problem they supposedly want to fix through their hyper emphasis on data collection and through FERPA being gutted by rule.

So I can’t get very excited about his proposal.