Privacy SOS

Is your state or city doing enough to protect student privacy?

Student privacy is finally in the news. The New York Times this week published an excellent piece describing the range of threats—from corporate data mining projects to biometric tracking and identification systems—facing students and parents nationwide, as the digital revolution hits public school systems from elementary through high school.

At a New York state elementary school, teachers can use a behavior-monitoring app to compile information on which children have positive attitudes and which act out. In Georgia, some high school cafeterias are using a biometric identification system to let students pay for lunch by scanning the palms of their hands at the checkout line. And across the country, school sports teams are using social media sites for athletes to exchange contact information and game locations.

Like everyone else, students are increasingly using technologies that provide them with window to the world, but without proper regulation and good policy, come at a steep cost. Children are unlike adults in two critical ways, however: they are minors, and they are legally required to attend school. That means it's doubly important that we adults work extra hard to ensure their rights aren't violated with digital technologies in the 21st century.

As usual when it comes to privacy, California is leading the way:

Legislators in the state passed a law last month prohibiting educational sites, apps and cloud services used by schools from selling or disclosing personal information about students from kindergarten through high school; from using the children’s data to market to them; and from compiling dossiers on them. The law is a response to growing parental concern that sensitive information about children — like data about learning disabilities, disciplinary problems or family trauma — might be disseminated and disclosed, potentially hampering college or career prospects. Although other states have enacted limited restrictions on such data, California’s law is the most wide-ranging.

Read more from the New York Times, including a helpful list of other states considering legislation to protect students, and read my colleagues on some of the privacy issues facing Massachusetts students this year.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.