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Messer To Present Student Data Privacy Bill

Dave Shea

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, passed in the 1970s, protects student data. The law applies mainly to student records owned by a school. But as textbooks, standardized tests and homework assignments all move online, third party companies that provide these online education services gain access to student data.

That information could include anything from a student’s grades, demographic information or performance on certain activities.

Fred Cate is the Director of the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University. He says these companies use the data for marketing purposes.

“So if I run a testing service or an online publisher or whatever and I can identify students by what they’re interested in, I can identify them by their proficiency, how well they do, I then know what to market to them,” Cate says.

The bill that Rep. Messer (R-6th) co-authored specifically applies to digital data, but received a lot of criticism that it didn’t go far enough to keep companies from accessing student data. Messer was supposed to introduce his measure Monday but postponed, most likely taking more time for revisions.

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