The Top 10: Student Privacy News (Feb-March 2017)

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The Future of Privacy Forum tracks student privacy news very closely, and shares relevant news stories with our newsletter subscribers.* Approximately every month, we post “The Top 10,” a blog with our top student privacy stories.
  1. New America has released an ethical framework to help colleges use predictive analytics to benefit students (this report follows their previous report discussing the promise and peril of predictive analytics last fall).
  2. Predictive Analytics was a hot topic in the past month. In addition to the New America report and FPF’s SXSWedu panel last week, The Hechinger Report reported that students are worried ed tech will predict failure before they have a chance to succeed. This article argues that the UK should “ditch the humans, leave [routine interventions with students] to the machine” and raises some interesting points. RealClearEducation says it is “Time for a Better Dropout Diagnosis.” Inside Higher Ed has an article that worries that predictive analytics’ probabilities can create self-fulfilling prophecies, and then posted the responses of companies that work on analytics.
  3. Chicago Public Schools had a major breach of student data, including detailed information about hundreds of K-8 students and the disability services they received that was posted publicly on their website in an excel spreadsheet of district expenditures (also see articles from the parent who found the breach at Diane Ravitch and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy). This may be a good time to remember the Student Privacy Principles, which say that everyone who handles data, including administrative, financial, and medical staff, should be trained in how to protect it.
  4. Many privacy groups are raising concerns about a bill that would amend the 2016 California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (see this fantastic summary about how the law applies to schools from F3 Law). This law unintentionally applies to schools and significantly limits districts’ control over the electronic devices they issue to employees and students (and likely violates some school responsibilities under CIPA as I discuss in my previous surveillance and privacy report). However, privacy advocates say that this amendment acts as a “sledgehammer, not a scalpel” and undermines student privacy.
  5. The National School Boards Association released “Data Security for Schools: A Legal and Policy Guide for School Boards.”
  6. The SLDS Grant Program has released a “Data Governance Manual Rubric” and an “Attributes of Effective Data Products Checklist.”
  7. A major student data tool – the Data Retrieval Tool, which automatically filled in FAFSA applications with information from tax returns through a data connection with the IRS – went down without notification due to “concerns that information from the tool could potentially be used by identity thieves.” Completing the FAFSA will now be much more difficult for students and their families, and it is unknown when the tool will be back up.
  8. One of my favorite student privacy scholars, Elana Zeide, has published a new law review article on “The Limits of Education Purpose Limitations” in FERPA and state laws.
  9. The Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU) partnered with colleges and universities to develop 14 case studies highlighting ways in which institutions use student level data to improve student outcomes.
  10. Immigration data and schools continues to be a hot button issue.

*Want more news stories? Email Amelia Vance at avance AT fpf.org to subscribe to our student privacy newsletter.