Leading K-12 School Service Providers Announce Pledge To Advance Student Data Privacy Protection

10/7/2014 12:00:00 AM

Leading K-12 School Service Providers Announce Pledge To Advance Student Data Privacy Protection

New Effort Builds on Legal Protections to Enhance Confidence in the Handling of Student Personal Information; Addresses Sales, Retention, Security, Profiling, Advertising and More

Washington, D.C. - October 7, 2014 – The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) today announced a K-12 school service providers Pledge to safeguard student privacy built around a dozen commitments regarding the collection, maintenance, and use of student personal information.

An initial leadership group of major school service providers are joining SIIA and FPF to introduce and sign the Pledge. The group is made up of some of the leading names in education technology, including Amplify, Code.org, DreamBox Learning, Edmodo, Follett, Gaggle, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Knewton, Knovation, Lifetouch, Microsoft, MIND Research Institute, myON (a business unit of Capstone), and Think Through Math. SIIA and FPF will continue reaching out to educators, parent groups and companies over the next several months to promote the pledge and garner participation from other school service providers.

“These commitments clearly and concisely articulate a set of expectations that parents and education officials have for the safeguarding of children’s sensitive data,” said Jules Polonetsky, executive director and co-chair, Future of Privacy Forum. “The Pledge will enhance the trust between families, schools and third party service providers necessary to support the safe and effective use of student information for student, teacher and school success.”

“We introduce this Pledge as a clear industry commitment to safeguard the privacy and security of all student personal information,” said Mark Schneiderman, senior director of education policy, Software & Information Industry Association. “Current law provides extensive restrictions on the use of student information, and this industry pledge will build on and detail that protection to promote even greater confidence in the appropriate use of student data.”

The commitments are intended to detail ongoing industry practices that meet and go beyond all federal requirements and to encourage service providers to more clearly articulate these practices to further ensure confidence in how they handle student data. The Pledge would apply to all student personal information whether or not it is viewed as part of an "educational record" as defined by federal law, and whether collected and controlled by the school but warehoused offsite by a service provider or collected directly through student use of a mobile app or website assigned by their teacher. It would apply to school service providers whether or not there is a formal contract with the school.

The Pledge will make clear that school service providers are accountable to:

  • Not sell student information
  • Not behaviorally target advertising
  • Use data for authorized education purposes only
  • Not change privacy policies without notice and choice
  • Enforce strict limits on data retention
  • Support parental access to, and correction of errors in, their children’s information
  • Provide comprehensive security standards
  • Be transparent about collection and use of data

The Pledge was developed by the FPF and SIIA with guidance from the school service providers, educator organizations, and other stakeholders following a convening by U.S. Representatives Jared Polis (CO) and Luke Messer (IN).

“The potential of using student data to drive effective instruction and personalize education is promising,” said Rep. Polis. “While there can be tremendous benefits from this data, we must ensure that there are appropriate safeguards to protect student privacy. I am pleased that these companies have taken an important step in making a commitment to parents, educators, and communities. This voluntary pledge can help address parents’ legitimate concerns about privacy issues and help keep us on track towards new and exciting educational developments for all students.”

“I applaud these companies for their commitment to protecting the privacy of sensitive student information,” said Congressman Luke Messer. “Their willingness to comply with these standards and not misuse student information shows they care about protecting student privacy while leveraging technology to unleash each child's talents and enhance their ability to learn and succeed.” Messer, who serves on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, added that the principles “will better inform the debate about what, if any, legislative remedy may be needed to ensure that child privacy is protected and this information is only used for academic purposes.”

“While technology is a powerful tool for teaching and learning, it is imperative that students’ personal information is protected at all times,” said Otha Thornton, president of National PTA. “National PTA applauds K-12 school service providers that have pledged to safeguard student data and privacy and effectively communicate with parents about how student information is used and protected. We look forward to even more support going forward.”

“This industry-led pledge to honor student data privacy is an important step in the right direction,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director, National School Boards Association. “Those vendors who opt to take the pledge are demonstrating their public commitment to responsible data practices in a manner that will help support school boards’ efforts to safeguard student privacy.”

School service providers support schools – including their teachers, students and parents – to manage student data, carry out school operations, support instruction and learning opportunities, and develop and improve products/services intended for educational/school use. In so doing, it is critical that school service providers effectively communicate with parents, teachers and education officials about how student information is used and safeguarded.

The Pledge and more information about how to support the Pledge are available at http://studentprivacypledge.org/.

About FPF
The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) is a Washington, DC based think tank that seeks to advance responsible data practices. The forum is led by Internet privacy experts Jules Polonetsky and Christopher Wolf and includes an advisory board comprised of leading figures from industry, academia, law and advocacy groups. For more information, visit www.futureofprivacy.org.

About SIIA
SIIA is the leading association representing the software and digital content industries. SIIA represents approximately 800 member companies worldwide that develop software and digital information content. SIIA provides global services in government relations, business development, corporate education and intellectual property protection to the leading companies that are setting the pace for the digital age. For more information, visit www.siia.net.

About National PTA
National PTA® comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of parent involvement in schools. PTA is a registered 501(c) (3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education. Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health, and welfare of children and youth.

About NSBA
About Us NSBA represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members. We believe education is a civil right, and public education is America’s most vital institution.

Media Contacts
• Nicholas Graham, FPF, 571-291-2967, fpfmedia@futureofprivacy.org
• Sabrina Eyob, SIIA Communications, 202-789-4480, seyob@siia.net
• Saul Hafenbredl, C. Blohm & Associates, 608-216-7300 x25, saul@cblohm.com

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