Update: On Oct. 17, the FTC Extended the Deadline for Comments on COPPA until December 9.
The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comments before “updating” their regulations on COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, the law that was originally passed in 1998. The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy is concerned that the FTC may be considering weakening the law, by allowing for the collection of personal data from kids under 13 by school vendors without parent consent. The deadline for comments is next Wednesday, Oct. 23. A sample, brief message you can send is below, along with instructions. Below that and here are the detailed comments submitted by our Parent Coalition.
Given all the breaches of student data in recent years, the widespread use by schools of surveillance software, data-mining apps, digital programs that deliver so-called “adaptive learning” and behavior modification tools, as well as the ubiquity of sites and apps that display advertising to children, the FTC should be strengthening the COPPA regulations rather than weakening them.
Moreover, we agree with this bipartisan group of Senators, who sent a cautionary letter to the FTC on October 4th, pointing out that the FTC isn’t obligated to issue new regulations until 2023, and urging them not to weaken the law through rewriting the regulations.
If the FTC is going to go ahead with issuing new regulations anyway, it should:
- Continue to require parental consent for any digital collection of data from children under 13, in and out of school. The need for parental consent is especially critical for personal data collection in schools regarding student behavior, biometrics, geolocation, disability and health conditions.
- Reconfirm that parents have the right to access any personal data collected by ed tech programs assigned to their children, challenge it if is incorrect, delete it and opt out of any further disclosure.
- Emphasize that the use of student data for advertising purposes in any form should be strictly prohibited, as well as any other commercial uses of this information, including employing student data to improve products and services or develop new ones.
- Use its authority to investigate and audit schools, districts and their vendors, and analyze their data practices to see if personal student information is being inappropriately redisclosed, repurposed and/or used for non-educational purposes.
A sample message you can copy and paste is below, and please feel free to modify it with your own personal views and experiences. But remember to send it no later than the deadline of Oct. 23!
Sample comment to be posted:
To the FTC:
As a concerned parent [or teacher or citizen], I strongly urge you to strengthen rather than weaken the COPPA regulations and your enforcement of the law to ensure children’s privacy, in and out of school, especially given the increased number of breaches and the inappropriate use of personal student data in recent years.
Any collection of data from children under 13 should continue to require prior, informed parental consent, as well as make it possible for parents to exercise their rights to access the personal data collected from their children by schools or their vendors, challenge it if it is incorrect, delete it and finally, opt out of any further disclosure. The need for parental consent is especially important in the case of extremely sensitive student data regarding children’s behavior, biometrics, geolocation, disabilities, or health conditions.
The FTC should also continue to prohibit the use of student data for advertising purposes or to improve or develop new products or services. Finally, to ensure that the law is fully enforced, the FTC should use its authority to investigate schools, districts and their vendors for excessive collection, redisclosure and repurposing of children’s personal data and its use for non-educational purposes, which is occurring in too many classrooms every day.
Yours sincerely, Name, address