FTC Announces Ed Tech Workshop on Dec. 1, 2017

On December 1, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Education will be co-hosting an Ed Tech Workshop focused on privacy issues related to technology and the classroom.

See the full announcement here and our comments, submitted jointly with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center Digital Democracy, here. You can see other comments posted so far to the FTC website here.

The workshop will be held from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. ET at the Constitution Center, 400 7th St., SW, Washington, DC, and is free and open to the public. It will also be webcast live on the FTC’s website.

We’re excited to announce that panelists will include privacy advocates Rachael Stickland of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and David Monahan from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. See the full agenda and panelists below.

Please tune in on Friday, December 1st!

Press release: The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy opposes the College Transparency Act and overturning the federal ban on a student unit record system

 

For Immediate Release

November 1, 2017

Contact: Rachael Stickland, rachael@studentprivacymatters.org, 303-204-1272

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy opposes the College Transparency Act and overturning the federal ban on a student unit record system

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy urges sponsors and supporters of the H.R. 2434 – College Transparency Act (CTA) to reconsider their support for this bill which would require the non-consensual collection by the federal government of the personally identifiable information of every student attending a post-secondary institution. Our members, made up of parents and privacy advocates from throughout the country, believe strongly that the 2008 Higher Education Act’s ban on the creation of a federal unit-record system should not be overturned by the CTA, and that any attempt to authorize a national student database would create an unacceptable and unaccountable surveillance system that would place our citizens at risk.

In recent months it has become clear that data held by post-secondary institutions and government agencies are under increased threat of breaches and cyberattacks. Even our “best protected” national data has been breached, including the hacking in recent years of the National Security Agency (NSA), Department of Defense (DoD), the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Specifically, the U.S. Department of Education was found to have weaknesses in four out of five security categories according to a 2015 security audit by the Inspector General’s Office.

Said Rachael Stickland, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy: “It’s inconceivable that Congress should entertain legislation that would increase federal collection of personal student data at a time when they have demonstrably proven they are unable to protect what data they already hold.”

Moreover, individual student data held at the federal level could be used in the future as a go-to repository of information for purposes beyond their originally prescribed intent. Even if the CTA specifies permissible uses of the data today, no Congress can limit the actions of future administrations once the data are in the government’s possession. The bill also allows for the expansion and collection of more categories of student data by the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) without authorization by Congress.  This could easily lead to widespread abuse of personal information for political or ideological gain.

While we agree in principle that students seeking to attend post-secondary institutions should have sufficient information to make informed decisions, it’s possible to do so without the creation of a national student database. New NCES surveys  provide previously unavailable statistics on “nontraditional” populations, making passage of the CTA an unnecessary overreach by the federal government at a time when we should minimize data collection rather than expand it.

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Student privacy webinar recording online now!

Thanks to everyone who attending our “Back-to-school solutions to protect your child’s privacy” webinar on October 3, 2017, co-hosted by the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, Class Size Matters and NYS Allies for Public Education. If you were unable to join us, you can find the webinar recording and the slide presentation below and here. Thanks again!

Upcoming webinar: Tuesday’s Back-to-school solutions to protect your child’s privacy

Now that summer’s over, it’s time to start thinking about protecting your children’s personal data at school. Join the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, Class Size Matters and the NYS Allies for Public Education  for a brief webinar on Tuesday, October 3rd at 8:00pm Eastern covering the following topics:

1. How to opt out of directory information sharing — and why;
2. What common practices in schools violate student privacy & federal law;
3. Practical tips for protecting your child’s privacy;
4. Questions to ask your teacher or principal about apps and other technology used in the classroom.

Registration is required so please sign up today here.

If you can’t join us on Tuesday, don’t forget to check out and use the Parent Toolkit for Student Privacy, created by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

We hope you can join us Tuesday, October 3rd at 8:00pm Eastern!

Testimony by Laura Bowman to the VA Board of Education about the need to protect student data privacy

Laura Bowman, Parents Across America privacy advocate

Cross-posted from the Parents Across America website.  Laura is a Virginia parent leader and a PAA board member.  At these July hearings,  Laura also gave the VA Board of Education a copy of our Parent Toolkit for Student Privacy.   Others should feel free to share our toolkit with their state education officials as well! 

My name is Laura Bowman and I’m the leader of Parents Across America-Roanoke Valley, a chapter of the national child and public school advocacy organization.

I believe we need stronger protections for our children’s personal data. We’ve seen the number of student data breeches double so far this year. EdTech Strategies reports that, “U.S… public schools were reported to have experienced at least 147 separate cyber security-related incidents” in the last 18 months.

Breeches of personal information by federal agencies has increased by 164% over five years.

Children don’t have negative credit histories, so their data is valuable to hackers who want to steal their identities.

It used to be that student data was kept within the school system. Now, there’s great concern that our children’s personal data is shared with outside entities, many with a profit motive, and without the informed consent of parents.

Parents should be worried. Their children’s sensitive student data, including their disciplinary records and information about their behavior, immigration status, and home life could be used for unethical purposes. We must be mindful of the consequences of relaxing privacy laws and allowing our children’s data to be shared with corporations and organizations with no vested interest in their health, safety, education, and well-being.

The vast majority of parents are unaware that their child’s electronic personal data is being shared with private educational companies to develop products and services. We should be able to know exactly who has access to our children’s data and for what purpose, and how it’s being stored and protected.

With the increase in EdTech and so-called “Personalized” Learning, and a focus on Social Emotional Learning, more and more of our children’s personal data is being collected online and mined for profit. Their personal information is being used in ways that aren’t transparent to parents and make it vulnerable to breaches.

While I believe technology in education, when used as a tool for research, creativity, and communication, is valuable, I’m increasingly concerned that every mouse click my child makes at school will be tracked, and that’s not okay with me.

Parents are worried that, due to the push for Social Emotional curriculum, there will be attempts to standardize and assess their children’s highly subjective emotional health. This is problematic on several fronts. Are our children’s teachers trained psychologists? No. Is it possible to standardize emotions? No. Should we grade a child’s emotional health? No. And if attempts are made to assess a child’s emotional quotient, where will that data go?

When it comes to character building and social emotional learning in K-12, I’d encourage our school systems to address it, don’t assess it. We must be mindful of unintended consequences and the dangers of once again, as with standardized testing, attempting to fit children into neat little boxes, and we mustn’t allow our children’s emotional quotient data to be given to corporate entities who value profits over the well-being of children.

The amount and types of data collected on our children is staggering. The CEO of Knewton is infamously known for stating that 5-10 million pieces of actionable data is collected on our children every day. He also boasts that, the world in 30 years is going to be unrecognizably data-mined, and education is the most data mine-able industry.

There’s a lot at stake and it’s my hope that your department holds itself and school systems across the Commonwealth responsible for protecting our children’s personal information from hackers and marketers.

I have a copy of the newly released Parent Toolkit for Student Privacy for you. It was created by the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and can be accessed on their websites. It’s a wealth of information and includes helpful advocacy tools for parents and educators alike.

Thank you for your time.