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student privacy


Grosso's opening statement from the introduction of the "Protecting Students Digital Privacy Act of 2016"

Thank you Chairman Mendelson. Today, I am also introducing the “Protecting Students Digital Privacy Act of 2016.

There are four main components to this legislation. First, this legislation requires that any contract or agreement between a local education agency and a student information system provider expressly authorize and require the provider to establish, implement, and maintain appropriate security measures to protect student data and personally identifiable student information and to comply with certain procedures with regard to accessing, analyzing, storing, or sharing that information.

Second, it limits an educational institution or a vendor that provides a technological device to a student for oversight or home use from accessing or tracking the device, and analyzing, selling, or sharing the activity or data, except in limited circumstances. 

This bill also prohibits a school from requiring or coercing a student or prospective student to disclose the user name or password to a personal social media account, add school-based personnel to their list of contacts, or to change the settings that affect a third party’s ability to view the account. 

Finally, this legislation would prohibit school employees from accessing or compelling a student to produce, display, share or provide access to, any data or other content stored upon, or accessible from a student’s personal technological device, even when the device is being carried or used in violation of a school’s policy, except for in limited circumstances.

There are some in the education space—schools and vendors alike—who have this notion that students leave their right to privacy at the schoolhouse door. That the only way to truly educate a young person is to have absolute control and constantly monitor their inputs and outputs. I simply don’t believe that to be the case. 

Further, I do not believe that third party vendors or organizations providing technology or software to our schools should have unfettered access to sell, analyze, or share the data they receive from our students. This bill takes steps to put safeguards in place. 

Now I must say, nothing in this legislation gives anyone a privacy right for online websites, accounts, or social media pages that are unsecured. It is not an invasion of privacy for an educational institution, a teacher, or anyone else to view material that has been voluntarily put on public display. And so even while I introduce this legislation today, I still want to advise the students who may be listening that discretion and a slow trigger finger remains wise.

I want to thank the ACLU for working with my office on this legislation. I look forward to a spirited debate on this issue. And I welcome any co-sponsors.