FERPA | SHERPA: Providing a Guide to Education Privacy Issues



Education is changing. New technologies are allowing information to flow within classrooms, school, and beyond, enabling new learning environments and new tools to understanding and improve the way teachers teach and students learn. At the same time, however, the confluence of enhanced data collection with highly sensitive information children and teens also makes for a combustive mix from a privacy perspective. Even the White House recognizes this challenge! Its recent Big Data Review specifically highlighted the need for responsible innovation in education.

There are many organizations – many of which we’ve partnered with – working tirelessly to privacy issues in education and provide the best experience for students. So too is the Department of Education. Yet these resources are scattered. The need for an education privacy resource clearinghouse is clear. With “back to school” now in full-swing, we thought it a great time to launch FERPA|SHERPA. The site – named after the core federal law that governs education privacy – aims to provide a one-stop shop for education privacy-related offerings of interest to parents and schools, as well as education service providers and the policymakers struggling to grapple with the legal landscape.

Everyone in the educational ecosystem has a role to play here, lest legitimate privacy concerns combine with other worries to overwhelm the benefits of education technologies and the expanded use of student data. One need only look at the recent collapse of inBloom – a new technology platform that school systems were clamoring for until a combination of poor communication and privacy fears came to dominate any and all conversations about the underlying technologies – as an example of the need for schools and the companies they partner with to better address education privacy issues.

To ensure parents have a voice in the ongoing privacy debate, the site will also host a blog written by parent privacy advocate Olga Garcia-Kaplan, a Brooklyn, NY public school parent of three children.

Additionally, we’re also releasing an education privacy whitepaper by Jules Polonetsky, our executive director, and Omer Tene, Vice President, Research & Education, IAPP, that analyzes the opportunities and challenges of data-driven education technologies and how key stakeholders should address them. The piece – “The Ethics of Student Privacy: Building Trust for Ed Tech” – was recently published in a special issue of the International Review of Information Ethics, “The Digital Future of Education.”

We hope FERPA | SHERPA will help get everyone on the same page when it comes to privacy issues around student data.  We would love your feedback and thoughts on the new site, and we look forward to helping to jump start conversations about education privacy in the new school year.  If we’ve missed something or you’d like to join our effort, please reach out to [email protected].