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Dems Seek Government Privacy Protections for Ed Tech-Collected Kids Data

A trio of Democratic senators has asked the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Education to issue joint guidance to ed tech companies and parents to protect the privacy of students who will be distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic. 

That came in a letter to DOE Secretary Betsy DeVos and FTC chairman Joseph Simons. 

Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) pointed to reports of inadequate privacy safeguards on ed tech online platforms children will be accessing from home, as well as an FBI PSA warning that misuse of student data collected by edtech companies could lead to “social engineering, bullying, tracking, identity theft, or other means for targeting children.” 

They provided a list of helpful suggestions to shape those anticipated guidelines. 

For companies, those include making privacy policies conspicuous and easily accessible, put notices about their data collection practices in plain language, provide as strong privacy safeguards for home use as in the classroom, and not sell or monetize student data collected from home use.  

For parents, that means be aware of data collection and sharing policies of ed tech companies, be aware of data security practices, preferably strong ones; communicate with their child's school if they have any concerns, and understand that malicious access to that data can pose a risk of identity theft, invasive tracking, and more.  

They said that with parents grappling with the "vast complications" of the pandemic, they should not have to worry about the misuse of their children's info while they are trying to use the internet to educate those kids remotely.

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.