Congress Seeks Proposals for New Student Privacy Legislation FERPA Updates

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On April 29, Representatives Luke Messer (R-IN) and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015, H.R. 2092. Focused on elementary and secondary education, this bill would prohibit the selling of student information to third parties, using student information for targeted advertising, or creating personal profiles of students unless it is done for school-related purposes. Parents would also have the right to look at, correct, and/or delete any information collected about their child.

The bill would allow operators of services to use and disclose student information in an aggregated format without personally identifiable information in order to improve or market their products. The bill would also enable companies to sell student information in a merger or acquisition so long as the new company is subject to and abides by the act’s restrictions.

Currently this bill only applies to K-12, but EDUCAUSE will continue to monitor the legislation as it moves forward in case implications for higher education emerge.

In a separate development, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced S. 1322, the Protecting Student Privacy Act, on May 13. This bill would update the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in order to limit the amount of information third parties can collect and maintain on students. The bill would also grant authority to parents and guardians to view any information being held on the student. Likewise, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) has released his own draft of legislation updating FERPA. While we don’t expect the Vitter proposal to move through the legislative process, it could affect whatever proposal the Senate chooses to pursue.

Representatives John Kline (R-MN) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) are also working on an update for FERPA. Their draft language would significantly update the act but focus on regulating schools, rather than companies, on how they collect, maintain, and utilize student information. The proposal would give the Department of Education more authority to track the data that schools collect and issue fines to violators of the law. 

Student privacy is clearly an important topic and will likely move forward in this Congress in some form. EDUCAUSE continues to monitor these legislative proposals and will update members as the legislative process on student data privacy unfolds.