Mar 26 2015

A Pledge to Responsible Use of Student Data

Companies that provide technology services to educational organizations call for better security practices, not new regulations or laws.

No one would argue the value of data-driven technologies as mission-critical tools, essential for powering teaching, learning and school ­operations. Although ­educators, students and families gain extraordinary benefits from the effective use of data, the benefits will continue only if everyone has confidence in the security of student information.

To achieve this goal, important work is under way to update practices that ensure responsible and transparent use of student personal information. This work is necessary to enhance trust between families, schools and education service providers, and to ensure that policymakers do not enact legislation that, while perhaps well meaning, could undermine educational progress.

Current federal laws and school agreements provide a critical framework that safeguards student information. Federal laws include restrictions that ensure that students’ personal information cannot be used for anything other than educational purposes (without explicit parental consent).



Raise Your Hand

To increase parent and student confidence in data use, as well as supplement the strong existing legal framework, the Future of Privacy Forum and the Software & Information Industry Association launched the Student Privacy Pledge this past winter.


The number of states that enacted new student-data privacy measures in 2014, covering the prohibition of collection of certain data types, improvements to state and district data policies or guidelines for how third-party vendors should handle student information

SOURCE: Education Week, “Ed-Tech Industry Weighs Impact of New Data Privacy Laws,” Oct. 7, 2014

So far, more than 100 education technology companies have signed this commitment to affirm and clarify practices that protect student privacy and data security. FPF and SIIA worked closely with school service providers, education organizations and other stakeholders to develop the pledge.

By signing it, companies that provide services to the education community publicly agree to 12 specific commitments that clearly and concisely articulate ongoing industry practices that meet family expectations and go beyond existing federal requirements. 

The pledge applies to all student personal information, including data collected and controlled by schools but warehoused offsite by service providers. It also takes into account data collected directly by mobile apps or websites that students use as part of their coursework. It would apply to school service providers — whether or not there is a formal contract with the school.

Avoiding Barriers

While a comprehensive framework of legal protections now exists, some jurisdictions are considering further legislation. Existing policies and practices should be continually reviewed and updated, but new restrictions or requirements risk creating unnecessary barriers to technology access, school operations and student learning.

With so much at stake — with regard to both student privacy and learning advancement — it is critical that federal and state governments avoid regulation overreach and instead focus policies on effective data governance, transparency and capacity. The pledge is an attempt to achieve this goal, and the industry is committed to helping all stakeholders work together to ensure responsible stewardship of student data.