The Top 10: Student Privacy News (June – July 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. 

The Top 10

  1. FERPA|Sherpa continues to grow! FPF published new blogs on protecting your child’s privacy when they go to summer camp (Leah Plunkett from the Berkman Klein Center) and Higher Ed Chief Privacy Officers(Joanna Grama from EDUCAUSE). We have also continued to add new resources to the Resource Search Center. Check out the site!
  2. Carnegie Mellon University grad students released a study on ed tech start-ups and student privacy, finding that they often fail to “prioritize student data protections,” and that investors do not tend to discuss privacy with their investees (the only exceptions I know about are AT&T Aspire and the Michelson 20MM Foundation). The release of the study was widely covered in the press.
  3. The House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held the hearing “Exploring Opportunities to Strengthen Education Research While Protecting Student Privacy” on June 28th. The consensus: “states need federal guidance on student data privacy,” and “It’s Time” to update FERPA. As mentioned in the previous newsletter, a very similar hearing was held on March 22nd last year, which is probably why very few lawmakers were in attendance. You can read my live tweets from the hearing, and check out my op-ed on this topic from last year.
  4. The Louisiana governor vetoed a bill that would have allowed researchers outside of Louisiana to access student data for research, subject to civil penalties for any violation of student privacy (more about the problem the bill was addressing here). The Louisiana student privacy law is still one of the strictest laws in the country even after being rolled back a year after it passed due to many unintended consequences.
  5. The U.S. Department of Education’s Regulatory Reform Task Force issued a progress report with a list of regulations that need to be updated – including FERPA and PPRA regulations (more info on the task force report via EdWeek) (h/t Doug Levin).
  6. Elana Zeide’s article, “The Structural Consequences of Big Data-Driven Education,” was published in the journal Big Data.
  7. John Warner writes a really interesting article in Inside Higher Ed about “Algorithmic Assessment vs. Critical Reflection.” One particularly thought-inspiring quote: “I am disconcerted by an educational model where students primarily receive attention when they’re “struggling.” This suggests a framework where the goal of education is simply to stay off the algorithm’s radar, rather than maximize each student’s potential.”
  8. In Australia, “An algorithm is using government data to tell those from low socioeconomic backgrounds their likelihood of completing university, but privacy experts say it could be utilised for early intervention instead of discouragement.”
  9. When should schools be able to access student social media? TrustED posted an article about the issue, and EdWeek reported on “10 Social Media Controversies That Landed Students in Trouble This School Year.” A student “tried to expose a schoolmate’s racism by reposting” her remarks on social media and was disciplined by the school, and the ACLU of Ohio is pushing back. A new paper published this month found that “women and young people are more likely to experience the chilling effects of surveillance,” and “the younger the participant, the greater the chilling effect.” For a look at surveillance and student privacy, check out my report from last fall.
  10. Personalized Learning articles proliferated this month in response to a RAND report on personalized learning implementation. Ben Herold at EdWeek reported that “Chan-Zuckerberg to Push Ambitious New Vision for Personalized Learning;” the New Schools Venture Fund Summit emphasized that “philanthropists and school leaders need to make a ‘big bet’ on dramatically reshaping schools” through personalized learning; Common Sense Media’s Bill Fitzgerald was on a podcast about “Personalized Learning and the Disruption of Public Education;” and there were other think pieces on personalized learning in RealClearEducationThe EconomistEdTech Strategies, and the Christensen Institute. It may be worth revisiting the Data & Society paper on “Personalized Learning: The Conversations We’re Not Having” from last year and its discussion of some of the privacy implications of personalized learning.

Image: “image_019” by Brad Flickinger  is licensed under CC BY 2.0.