A bill aims to protect students’ digital information

Friday , June 19, 2015 - 12:50 PM

By CALEB LARKIN
Standard-Examiner correspondent

OGDEN – The Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act, sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado, and Rep. Luke Messer, R-Indiana will protect students from targeted sales tactics.

The bill grants the Federal Trade Commission enforcement powers to prevent third party agencies from retrieving students’ personal information from the internet. A current focus on digital privacy exists with the increase of technology use at younger ages in schools. Govtech.com reports more than “170 bills on student data privacy and security have been considered this year.”

Legislators supporting the bill hope the Act will help keep a student’s contact information private. Hailey Nash, a sixth-grade teacher at Syracuse Elementary, believes the bill represents forward thinking. “We are only using more and more technology in the classroom. The Act can prevent future problems from this increase of digital student information,” Nash said.

Nash explained she relies on technology to assist students in learning, especially for customized lessons. “You can give the students individual lessons and learning patterns that you can evaluate instead of teaching the whole class through one learning method,” Nash said speaking of the software she uses in her classroom. She sees safeguarding the digital information stored in these programs as essential to keep the programs going. She also feels protecting the data builds trust with students and their parents.

Nick Romney, a senior at Weber State University, believes that “those who are in school are the ones that are going to create the future.” He feels it is import to protect students’ information as the younger they are the more susceptible they are as well. Ad agencies have already bought his information for targeted emails, phone calls, and even text messages. “I probably get a call once every other day from an ad agency,” Romney said. He explained as a student, credit card and insurance companies most often target him.

Romney worries what kind of marketing agencies targets younger students. If the information is not protected, he sees a potential risk that the pornography industry could target children. “I don’t think it [digital information] should ever be bought, sold, or given to a third party outside the school,” Romney said.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, an organization strongly in favor of the bill, submitted a complaint to the FTC to investigate Scholarships.com in December. They claimed Scholarships.com sold student information without permission. The bill targets education-related third party organizations, such as Scholarships.com. It would prohibit the selling of student information, from as early as kindergarten, used for targeted advertising purposes.

“I have no problem using technology and software in the schools, but it has to live up to some expectations with limitations and privacy restrictions,” Nash said.