Advocates say student data legislation needs more work

Published 10:23 am Wednesday, May 11, 2016

By Solvejg Wastvedt FM

Some privacy advocates say a bipartisan legislative proposal for student data protection at the state Capitol doesn’t go far enough.

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Both the House and Senate are considering legislation that would prohibit companies from selling personally identifiable student data or advertising to students on electronic platforms, among other protections. But Ben Feist of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota says the proposal leaves too many loopholes.

He objects to a provision allowing companies to recommend products based on students’ use of educational software.

“While there can be some great educational opportunities with things like recommendation engines, it should really be parents and students themselves opting in to their data being used for those purposes,” Feist said.

Feist is pushing for a broader definition of protected data and stricter limits.

“It only deals with some discrete issues, and yet it’s sort of being sold as a big-picture student privacy fix. We think there are going to be a number or loopholes that would still need to be addressed in future sessions,” Feist said.

Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, who sponsored the proposal in the Senate, says she’s open to suggestions but wants action this session.

“This aspect of the private companies and their interactions with our kids and their education and our kids’ data is a pretty wide open door,” she said. “Does this bill close that door 100 percent and perfectly? Probably not. But this does a really good job of closing this door in a big way.