FPF Testifies on Maryland Student Data Privacy Bill
Amelia Vance, Director of Youth and Education Privacy for FPF, recently testified before the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee on HB 1062. The legislation proposes several updates to the state’s Student Data Privacy Act, and an extension of the Maryland Student Data Privacy Council, which Vance was asked to serve on when it was created in 2019.
While Vance applauded many of the proposed updates in HB 1062, her testimony focused on two recommended amendments: clarifying how the bill defines Operator, and the scope of the Council’s recommendations.
Vance urged the Legislature to consider aligning the definition of Operator in the bill with the full definition as proposed by the Council, noting:
The Council’s definition was carefully crafted to ensure that companies have adequate notice that their products are subject to this law. Some companies are not aware that their tools are used in an educational context, such as general audience services used to assist special education students. HB 1062’s current definition could compel companies to either ban the use of their products by schools, or push companies to collect and link more identifiable user data to determine whether their product is used in Maryland schools.
Clarifying the definition of Operator would also ensure that it does not unintentionally apply to other entities such as education researchers, whose work is as crucial as ever as educators look to measure learning loss and other student challenges during the pandemic.
Finally, Vance noted that the original intent and scope of the Council is to provide expert recommendations on student privacy laws as they relate to edtech products and companies – not to schools. While the reporting requirements for County Boards outlined in HB 1062 could be useful, Vance cautioned that overly burdensome transparency requirements often end up making well-intended student privacy legislation ineffective or even counterproductive by overwhelming parents with information that doesn’t help them make educated decisions about their children’s privacy. She recommended specifically tasking the Council, whose mandate would be expanded by this legislation, to “provide expert recommendations on this topic [to] help ensure the right balance.”
Read Vance’s written testimony on HB 1062 here and watch the testimony here (add YouTube link teed up to the right time code). For more background on Maryland’s Student Data Privacy Council, statutorily created in 2019, click here.