Senator to Introduce New Legislation to Protect Student Privacy

Earlier this week, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) announced plans to introduce legislation to protect students' sensitive information from commercial exploitation and from potential mishandling.

At issue are changes to the U.S. Department of Education's guidelines for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) issued in 2008 and 2011 which allowed for the increased sharing and use of student data in the private sector. In October, Senator Markey wrote a letter to the department requesting more information on the privacy rights of parents and children when sensitive student information is shared with third parties.

The agency responded in a letter this week justifying the changes and insisting that, while the protection of student data is paramount, there are legitimate cases in which schools must disclose student data without parental consent. The correspondence also stated that the department shares Sen. Markey's concerns about the commercialization of student data and that guidance will be issued on that topic.

Following the agency's response, Sen. Markey revealed his plans to introduce legislation to build in further statutory protections for parents and students. The legislation will be guided by the following principles:

  • Student data should never be used for commercial purposes – to market products to kids.
  • Parents should have the right to access the personal information about their children, and amend that information if it’s incorrect, that is held by private companies as they would if the data was held by the school itself.  
  • There must be safeguards put in place to safeguard sensitive student data that is transferred to and then held by private companies. 
  • Private companies must delete the information that they no longer need to enhance educational quality for students.  


Related Links

Press Release from Senator Markey's Office