Stand up for Massachusetts Students' Privacy

The world of advertising is radically transforming. The prize is no longer our eyes in front of a television, but information about who we are, what we like, and how we’re vulnerable. Our public schools, which collect a wealth of personal information about students, are now particularly alluring targets for corporate marketers.

A recent survey by Fordham’s Center on Law and Information Policy (CLIP) found that 95% of school districts rely on cloud services for a wide array of functions—and that most districts fail to adequately protect student privacy when using these services. Contracts between school districts and cloud service providers often place few limits on how the data can be used by vendors; fewer than 7% restricted the sale or marketing of student information.

Many schools also use free apps for instruction or homework assignments. But these “freemiums” aren’t actually free—they’re paid for with students’ privacy. Thousands of public school districts, for example, now use Google’s Apps for Education, a suite of web-based tools including their popular email service Gmail. Google admits it scans and indexes the emails of these student accounts.

Unfortunately, many of the laws and regulations that govern the collection and dissemination of student information were enacted back when records were kept on paper in a filing cabinet. And a 2011 update to the federal Family Educational Research and Protection Act made it easier for school districts to share student data with commercial vendors.

We can’t rely on the goodwill of corporate service providers or expect the marketplace to protect our children. That’s why we need comprehensive student privacy legislation.

If you live in Massachusetts, please take a moment to urge your state Representative and Senator to stand up for student privacy.

We need legislation that:

  • Prohibits student data from being exploited for marketing purposes.
  • Makes clear rules about who, and under what circumstances, third parties can access student data.
  • Provides protections for how student data is transmitted, stored, and secured.
  • Requires vendors to destroy all data when their contract with a school district expires.

For model state privacy legislation, please click here.