Education technology companies are collecting as many as 10 million pieces of information daily about every child using their products, according to a Politico investigation into the growing use of education data.
Many school districts don’t restrict contractors from using the data. And a federal privacy law was written prior to widespread Internet use and needs updating.
From the story:
Students shed streams of data about their academic progress, work habits, learning styles and personal interests as they navigate educational websites. All that data has potential commercial value: It could be used to target ads to the kids and their families, or to build profiles on them that might be of interest to employers, military recruiters or college admissions officers.
The law is silent on who owns that data. But Kathleen Styles, the Education Department’s chief privacy officer, acknowledged in an interview that much of it is likely not protected by FERPA — and thus can be commercialized by the companies that hold it.
Districts could write privacy protections into their contracts with ed tech companies. But few do.
A recent national study found that just 7 percent of the contracts between districts and tech companies handling student data barred the companies from selling it for profit.
The privacy concerns include big, new firms such as Knewton, and national non-profit efforts such as Code.org, which is encouraging kids to learn computer programming.