Across the political spectrum, people are debating whether it’s a good idea to collect any personal data at all about students. We should at least agree that private companies must not use such data for their own profit. Last month, Senators Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) and Ed Markey (D., Mass.) took a step in this direction, reintroducing legislation that would prohibit companies from data-mining students’ personal information for marketing purposes. The increasing use of technology in the classroom has shown the ability to produce significant gains in student achievement, but the advent of high-tech classrooms and online learning has created some troubling issues for parents and students. In the 21st century, school children have to worry about large corporations stealing their personal data as much as they worry about schoolyard bullies stealing their lunch money.
In the digital age, 95 percent of school districts are sending student records to Google, Microsoft, and hundreds of other companies that manage school services. Only 7 percent of these districts sign contracts that directly prevent companies from selling students’ data. The Protecting Student Privacy Act would prohibit companies from data-mining students personal information for marketing purposes and would require stricter safeguards on student data. The reintroduction of this legislation (first introduced in 2014) comes in response to high-profile cases in which private corporations gained access to students’ data.
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