Today is #DataPrivacyDay, an opportunity to remember that everyone who uses student information has a responsibility to maintain the privacy and security of students’ data.
States have a critical role to play in safeguarding student data. Over the last six years, 43 states enacted 116 new laws expressly addressing the privacy and security of education data. As state legislatures across the country convened this month, DQC has been tracking bills that would impact education data use. Out of 82 bills introduced in 29 states so far this session, 13 bills in 9 states are entirely focused on student data privacy.
Privacy is still a priority for states, even though we are seeing a fewer number of bills than years past. Most states have already enacted at least one student data privacy law in recent years and are now focused on implementing their new practices and policies. But the work of protecting privacy is never done, and states are continuing to build on their past efforts, especially as uses of education data continue to evolve.
Several of the state legislatures that are considering privacy bills in 2019 are looking to strengthen or update existing student data privacy laws to ensure that policy reflects practice. For example, a bill in Washington would change the definition of “school service” in the state’s existing law governing the activities of third party service providers so that it no longer excludes websites and mobile applications designed for general use. This effort reflects a recognition that students may be using platforms in school that were not designed specifically for education.
While in years past we saw many states considering similar approaches, there are fewer common themes across the privacy bills so far this year, a sign that states are customizing policies based on their specific contexts.
States may also look to evaluate the impact of their data privacy laws. A group of Delegates in Maryland have revived a proposed effort to establish a Student Data Privacy Council to study the implementation of the state’s 2015 privacy law and review similar laws and best practices in other states.
Everyone has a role to play to safeguard student data. We applaud all states’ hard work to develop policies that protect student information while ensuring that everyone with a stake in education can use data to support all students on their path to success.