Obama seeks laws on student privacy, data hacking

The White House official said the proposed bill is based on a California statute pushed by Common Sense Media, a group that promotes privacy. The organization said the proliferation of online platforms, mobile applications, cloud computing, and other technology allows businesses to collect sensitive data about students including contact information, academic records, and even what students eat for lunch or whether they ride the bus to school.

“We applaud President Obama for standing up for school children, who deserve the opportunity to use educational websites and apps to enrich their learning without fear that their personal information will be exploited for commercial purposes or fall into the wrong hands,” Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer said in a statement.

“CoSN welcomes the Administration’s strong interest in protecting student data, but encourages a measured, thoughtful process. Most importantly, new federal privacy policies should not overreach and limit the ability of educators to use data to improve student outcomes,” said Consortium for School Networking CEO Keith Krueger. “A balanced approach is needed. We urge the Administration to look beyond simple prohibitions and embrace policies that will build the capacity of schools, school leaders, and teachers to effectively use and protect data.”

Obama’s proposals follow last month’s hacking at Sony Pictures Entertainment. The White House has blamed the cyber attack on North Korea and responded with new sanctions against the isolated nation.

The Center for Democracy & Technology also said it supports Obama’s moves to protect the data, while pointing out that his administration still uses electronic surveillance for national security purposes.

“Even with these proposed reforms, we must not forget about government surveillance reform,” said Nuala O’Connor, the group’s president. “Without the end to the mass surveillance practices of the U.S. government, any privacy reform is woefully incomplete.”

It’s unclear whether the new Republican-led Congress will take up either of Obama’s legislative proposals.

This report contains material from the Associated Press, with additional reporting by eSchool News.

Laura Ascione

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