Blumenthal/Daines student privacy bill; good start but needs improvement

For immediate release: July 16, 2015

Contact: Leonie Haimson, 917-435-9329;

Rachael Stickland: 303-204-1272;

The student privacy bill introduced today by Senators Blumenthal and Daines, called the ‘‘SAFE KIDS Act’’,  has positive aspects that would close some of the loopholes of current federal law. It allows for parents to delete their children’s personal data if it is collected by vendors and other third parties, as long as that information is not in their education records. It calls for contracts and privacy policies to be required before any school or district can disclose personal information to third parties, and for these privacy policies to be posted. It extends these provisions to children enrolled in prekindergarten and early childhood programs.

However, the bill also has significant weaknesses as well that should be addressed. The specific personal student data that can be deleted by parents is not clearly defined; and the notification provisions are weak, making it questionable as to how parents would be able to access the privacy policies or exercise their rights. The bill would allow both contextual and targeted ads, based on data-mining students each time they go online, which is unacceptable to many parents. The security provisions are weak and the enforcement provisions non-existent.

Said Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, “While we appreciate the efforts of Senators Blumenthal and Daines to regulate the collection and use of student personal information by third parties, we need a stronger bill that includes robust security and enforcement protections. We also believe that parents must be informed by their schools and should consent before their children’s data is disclosed, particularly in the case of sensitive information related to health, disability and disciplinary issues. Consent must absolutely be required before any re-disclosures are allowed from one operator to another, or else we risk an uncontrolled number of re-disclosures, with parents unaware of where their children’s data is being held and under what conditions.”

Josh Golin, Executive Director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said: “The bill does not go far enough in protecting children from potentially harmful commercial influences.  Websites, apps, and software assigned to students by their schools should be free of all advertising, regardless of whether the ads are contextual or based on data-mining students during each one of their internet sessions.   Ads serve no legitimate educational purpose and are distracting to students.  Schools should not be allowed to sell or offer up their students’ data, time and attention to marketers for any reason.”

Jennifer Jacobsen, a Connecticut public school parent and privacy advocate stated, “My children do not go to school to have their meta-data analyzed. They do not go to school to have advertising embedded within their on-line instructional materials. They do not go to school to have every detail about them uploaded and accessed by people I do not know. They do not go to school to be employed as unpaid product development specialists or forbid, plugged into a laptop all day. They go to school to be inspired, enlightened, impassioned seekers of knowledge, to become able citizens and follow their dreams.”

Rachael Stickland, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy concluded, “We look forward to working with Senators Blumenthal and Daines, and all members of Congress to strengthen every bill that aims to protect the privacy and safety of students. Parents must be fully aware and involved in the decision-making as to how the personal information of their highly vulnerable children is stored, used and shared. Particularly with the news of devastating data breaches reported nearly every day, security protections must be strong if a child’s safety and future chances of success is not to be undermined. We point policymakers to the five principles developed by our Coalition, involving parental and student rights, transparency, security, enforcement, and a ban on commercial uses. All five principles should be and must be included in any student privacy bill going forward.”

These five principles are available on the Student Privacy Matters website here: