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Student Digital Privacy Bill Reintroduced

Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have reintroduced a bill to protect student information privacy online.

The Protecting Student Privacy Act would require educational software and digital content companies to protect sensitive student data, prevent using student's personally identifiable information (PII) for targeted marketing, give parents the right to access PII and amend it, requires disclosing which outside parties have access to the info, and minimizes the PII obtained and requires it to be deleted when it has served its educational purpose.

The senators pointed out in reintroducing the bill that educational software and digital content is an $8 billion industry, and said that 95% of school districts send student records to outside companies to manage school services, while only seven percent of those districts "directly prevent the companies from selling students’ data that includes everything from grades, to test scores, attendance records and family relationships."

The bill would update the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Software & Information Industry Association said it appreciated the thought, but warned against "erecting barriers" to student use of new technology.

“Even with multiple layers of protection in place, it makes sense to review existing policies and practices. To that end, we appreciate the commitment of Senators Markey and Hatch and will continue to work with them on issues of student data privacy and security," said SIIA VP of public policy Mark MacCarthy. “We continue to believe that Congress must avoid unnecessarily adding to the patchwork of state laws and federal regulations that already govern schools and service providers.  It is critical that we don’t erect new barriers to student technology access essential to their educational success and U.S. competitiveness.”

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.