In attempt to catch up to--and in some cases eliminate--certain tech education practices that have outpaced the law, states have introduced new student information privacy and security bills designed to limit the collection of student information.
In recent years, schools have complimented their curricula with the latest tech education tools, often designed by startups, such as class portals and reading apps. The fact that this technology has enabled companies to amass repositories of student data has led to growing concern from advocacy groups and parents, according to a recent story in the New York Times.
"You can't have an education technology revolution without strong privacy protections for students," James P. Steyer, CEO of San Francisco-based children's advocacy group Common Sense Media, told the Times.
Exactly what kinds of data are companies collecting? It runs the gamut. Some students have been surveyed on their pregnancy history. Others have been instructed to use a behavior monitoring app to alert their teachers if they are acting out. And in some schools, biometric data--specifically the prints on the palms of students' hands--have been used as part of an identification system to let students pay for lunch.
Parents are concerned that some types of data--like information about learning disabilities and family trauma--could be used by colleges or employers down the road to justify a rejection.
This concern has resulted in the demise of at least one ed tech company, according the Times. InBloom, which was backed with $100 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, closed up shop in April. InBloom wanted to connect disparate school databases to provide one dashboard where teachers could track student progress.
Enough parents and school districts had privacy and security concerns about the service (some parents found their children's Social Security numbers on inBloom, for instance) that the company ultimately shut down.
Thirty-six states this year have introduced pieces of legislation that aim to curb the collection of student data to some degree. California's new law is the most comprehensive by far.
"Among other things, the California bill prohibits companies from selling, disclosing, or using for marketing purposes students' online searches, text messages, photos, voice recordings, biometric data, location information, food purchases, political or religious information, digital documents, or any kind of student identification code," the Times reported.
The California legislature's message? Companies shouldn't use student information for any other reason than those intended by schools.