Education Privacy

On May 19, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) adopted, on a unanimous basis, a policy statement reminding educational technology vendors (“ed tech vendors”) of their duty to comply with the substantive privacy protections of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) and the Commission-issued COPPA Rule.  The policy statement reiterates the requirements of the Rule and previous informal guidance from Commission staff, and makes clear that ed tech vendors may not submit children to commercial surveillance and data monetization practices when using technology in the classroom.Continue Reading FTC Unanimously Adopts Policy Statement on Education Technology and COPPA

Earlier this month, the Governor of Vermont signed into law S.B. 110, which will amend the state’s data breach notification law and create a new student privacy law focused on operators of educational technology services.  Notably, the amendments to the state’s data breach notification law will expand the categories of personally identifiable information (“PII”) that may trigger notification obligations to individuals and regulators in the event of a breach to include online account credentials, health and medical information, and biometric and genetic data, among others.  The student privacy law will place certain restrictions on how student data can be collected, used, and disclosed by operators of online educational technology services.  The new requirements, which will enter into force on July 1, 2020, are discussed in more detail below.
Continue Reading Vermont Enacts Data Breach Notification and Student Privacy Legislation

On November 2, 2016, California Attorney General Kamala Harris released a report outlining best practices for the education technology industry (“Ed Tech”).  In Ready for School: Recommendations for the Ed Tech Industry to Protect the Privacy of Student Data, Attorney General Harris noted the need to implement robust safeguards for collection, use, and sharing

During his speech earlier this week at the Federal Trade Commission, President Obama unveiled a set of proposals to enhance student privacy protections.  These proposals will include publishing a draft Student Digital Privacy Act, promoting an existing Student Privacy Pledge for educational technology providers, and introducing new privacy tools through the Department of Education.
Continue Reading President Obama Proposes New Legislation and Model Terms of Service to Protect Student Privacy

Yesterday, several big tech companies that offer educational and school services signed the “Student Privacy Pledge,” introduced by the Future of Privacy Forum (“FPF”) and The Software & Information Industry Association (“SIIA”) to safeguard student privacy as it relates to the collection, maintenance, and use of students’ personal information.  Among the fourteen education tech companies representing the initial group to join SIIA and FPF in introducing the Pledge are Microsoft, Amplify, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Notably, tech giants Google and Apple were absent from the list of signatories.  As part of the Pledge, effective January 1, 2015, participating companies agree to the following commitments:

  • Not to collect, maintain, use or share student personal information beyond that needed for authorized educational/school purposes, or as authorized by the parent/student
  • Not sell student personal information
  • Not to use or disclose student information collected through an educational/school service (whether personal information or otherwise) for behavioral targeting of ads to students
  • Not to build a personal profile of a student other than for supporting authorized educational/school purposes or as authorized by the parent/student
  • Not to make material changes to school service provider consumer privacy policies without first providing prominent notice to the account holder(s) (i.e., the educational institution, or the parent/student when the information is collected directly from the student with student/parent consent) and allowing them choices before data is used in any manner inconsistent with terms they were initially provided; and not to make material changes to other policies or practices governing the use of student personal information that are inconsistent with contractual requirements
  • Not knowingly retain student personal information beyond the time period required to support the authorized educational/school purposes, or as authorized by the parent/student
  • Collect, use, share, and retain student personal information only for purposes for which companies are authorized by the educational institution, teacher, or the parent/student
  • Disclose clearly in contracts or privacy policies, including in a manner easy for parents to understand, what types of student personal information is collected and the purposes for which the information maintained is used or shared with third parties
  • Support access to and correction of students’ personally identifiable information by the student or their authorized parent, either by assisting the educational institution in meeting its requirements, or directly, when the information is collected from the student with student/parent consent
  • Maintain a comprehensive security program reasonably designed to protect the security, privacy, confidentiality, and integrity of student personal information against risks – such as unauthorized access or use, or unintended or inappropriate disclosure – through the use of administrative, technological, and physical safeguards appropriate to the sensitivity of the information
  • Require that vendors with whom students’ personal information is shared in order to deliver the educational service are obligated to implement these same commitments
  • Allow a successor entity to maintain the students’ personal information, in the case of a merger or acquisition, provided the successor is subject to these same commitments for previously collected student personal information

Continue Reading Microsoft and Other Leading K-12 School-Service Providers Pledge To Protect Student-Data Privacy

Last week, California enacted bills SB 1177 and AB 1584, strengthening student privacy protections in the State.

SB 1177 prohibits operators of online sites or mobile apps who know that their services are used primarily for K-12 school purposes and whose services designed and marketed as such (“operators”) from using K-12 student data in four specific ways. First, SB 1177 prohibits operators from engaging in targeted advertising on any website or mobile app (including their own) if the advertising would be based on any information obtained from the operations of its K-12 online site or mobile app. Second, SB 1177 prohibits operators from using information obtained from the operations of the K-12 online site or mobile app to create a “profile” about a K-12 student, unless the profile is created in furtherance of K-12 school purposes. Third, operators are prohibited from selling a student’s information. And, fourth, SB 1177 prohibits operators from disclosing personally identifiable information, unless certain special circumstances exist, such as responding to or participating in judicial process.

In addition to the four prohibitions listed above, SB 1177 places two affirmative requirements on operators. The bill requires that operators “[i]mplement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices” appropriate to the information protected, and to specifically protect the information from “unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure.” In addition, SB 1177 requires operators to delete personally identifiable information regarding a K-12 student upon request by a school or school district.

AB 1584 addresses the access and use of K-12 student data by third party vendors. AB 1584 explicitly permits local educational agencies to enter into contracts with third parties to provide online services relating to management of pupil records or to otherwise access, store, and use pupil records in the course of performing contractual obligations.
Continue Reading California Strengthens Student Privacy Protections

The staff of the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has released updated guidance on how the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) and its implementing regulations apply to schools and educational online services through revisions to the Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQS”) that are published on the FTC website.  For a comparison between the old and new school FAQs, please click here.  The FAQs constitute informal guidance, but they are useful for understanding how FTC staff interprets COPPA’s application in different contexts.  Here is a brief summary:

  • The revised FAQs do not change the circumstances under which schools can provide verifiable parental consent on behalf of parents, that is, when an operator collects personal information from students “for the use and benefit of the school, and for no other commercial purposes.”  Examples of prohibited commercial purposes include online behavioral advertising and “building user profiles for commercial purposes not related to the provision of the online service” to the school.
  • While the prior FAQs noted that, in such circumstances, operators should provide schools with robust notice about their data collection, use, and sharing practices, the revised FAQs suggest that these disclosures should track the direct notice requirements outlined in the COPPA Rule.  In COPPA FAQ M.1, FTC staff explains that “the operator must provide the school with all the required notices.”

Continue Reading FTC Staff Updates Guidance on “COPPA and Schools” Through Revised FAQs

Advances in technology present opportunities to improve student learning, allow teachers and students to work more efficiently, and reduce operational costs for educational institutions.  Many schools are taking advantage of these benefits by implementing online course systems and cloud computing services that allow students and teachers to access their programs, e-mails, and documents online from anywhere and almost any device.

As a New York Times article published earlier this week also highlighted, the embrace of educational cloud services also raises interesting and important questions about the privacy and security of student data.  After all, these services by definition involve the movement of student and teacher communications, documents, or other data that used to be stored on-site and managed by school employees to the cloud.  Cloud computing services are operated by third-party vendors, and these vendors have a range of business models and practices with respect to the collection, use and disclosure of data. 

As they work to safeguard student data without inhibiting the benefits of educational technologies, we find that educational institutions increasingly are focusing on regulatory requirements and contractual protections for student data — and in particular five principles that we describe after the jump.Continue Reading Student Privacy and the Cloud: Five Principles for Schools

The Department of Education has amended the implementing regulations for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”).  According to the Department, the new regulations are intended to “safeguard student privacy while giving states the flexibility to share school data.”   

Among other things, the new regulations:

  • Make it easier for educational authorities to share educational

Yesterday, the Missouri State Senate voted unanimously to repeal controversial portions of the state’s Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, which restricts how teachers can use the Internet.  If passed by the state House and signed by the governor, the repeal bill would eliminate restrictions on teachers’ maintenance of non-public “work-related” websites and social networking