One privacy problem in FERPA today is the ease of acquiring students’ sensitive educational records by third parties. Under FERPA as it is now, Directory Information about students is allowed to be shared with third parties without parental or student consent. In order to stop the sharing of directory information, parents of students younger than 18 must take affirmative steps to opt their children out of directory information sharing. Students 18 and older must take steps to opt themselves out. FERPA Directory Information rules apply at the college and post-graduate level, too. Currently, FERPA opt out is mired in an outdated approach that needs to be updated and reformed from top to bottom.
President Obama has announced that the White House will propose legislation for educational privacy reform. The administration needs to start with the basics and get FERPA right once and for all, because currently, FERPA is not doing the job it was intended to do. Here’s a backgrounder on this educational privacy cornerstone.
WPF is attending the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. We’re focusing on privacy and health and fitness technology, smart home tech/Internet of Things, and education and kid tech. Throughout the week we will be bringing you a stream of thoughts, images, and short videos via our Twitter and Instagram feeds. After the show, we will
Educational Privacy — The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, FERPA, has been amended substantially. The proposed amendments have been published and are open for comment until May 23, 2011. The current changes impact students’ medical, educational, and informational privacy interests. WPF will be filing detailed comments on FERPA, including how the proposal interacts with California privacy laws. We will be posting additional materials on commenting soon.
FERPA — The U.S. Department of Education has published proposed changes to its FERPA regulations, FERPA standing for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. FERPA is a significant regulation that controls how students’ school records and “directory” information may be shared. The proposed regulations have one item the WPF is supporting, which is that SSNs are not considered part of the directory information. However, other aspects of the proposed regulation still need work to adequately protect students’ and parents’ privacy interests. The WPF commented in particular that schools should not be allowed to request and then store a full tax refund from parents in order to prove students’ eligibility. The Forum also requested that students’ electronic identifiers are not included in the definition of directory information. One area of substantial concern is that the Department of Education has not expressly provided that students who opt-out of having their directory information shared should not be penalized for opting out. Currently, the proposed regulations may be read to suggest that schools may be able to deny benefits, services, or even required activities to students who have exercised the right to opt-out of the publication of directory information. FERPA comments may be filed until close of business Eastern time May 8, 2008.