ACLU-Backed Student Privacy Legislation Introduced in Multiple States

min read

(January 27, 2016) On January 20, 2016, sixteen states and the District of Columbia introduced a variety of privacy legislation aimed at protecting both student and employee rights and prohibiting government surveillance. The legislative push was organized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which claimed a state-based approach to these issues would be more effective than attempting to pass any new laws through a stalled Congress.

Each state introduced a set of various bills put forward by ACLU that cover a host of issues. The organization's website breaks the bills down into four categories: Personal Data Privacy, Location Tracking, Employee Data Privacy, and Student Data Privacy. In turn, the Student Data Privacy legislation falls under four subcategories:

  • Student Social Media Privacy - School officials would be prohibited from forcing or coercing students into providing access to social media accounts, except under certain, limited circumstances;
  • Student Personal Technology on Campus – A student's legal and constitutional rights to privacy related to their own personal technology devices would be protected should he or she stand accused of criminal activity;
  • 1-to-1 Device Privacy – Free technology and devices provided to students by third parties would have to provide students and their parents with the ability to restrict who has access to the data and personal information stored on the device; and
  • Student Information Systems Privacy – Parents and students would have the ability to restrict access to and use of personal information stored in their school district's student information system or held by third parties for the district.

In addition to DC, the states involved in this effort were Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. It is not yet clear whether the state legislatures in these states will act on these proposed bills during their legislative sessions.

Jen Ortega serves as a consultant to EDUCAUSE on federal policy and government relations. She has worked with EDUCAUSE since 2013 and assists with monitoring legislative and regulatory proposals across a range of policy areas, including cybersecurity, data privacy, e-learning, and accessibility.