Meet Ed – Ed Tech, that is

By Lesley Fair

If you think Ed Tech is the gruff guy in the polo shirt who set up your network, you’re missing out on a revolution happening right now in America’s classrooms. With more than half of K-12 students able to access school-issued personal computing devices, Ed Tech – educational technology – is changing the way kids learn. The benefits are obvious, but it’s also raised questions about how the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) apply. The privacy implications of Ed Tech are the focus of a December 1, 2017, workshop announced by the FTC and the Department of Education.

Issued in 2000 and updated since then, the COPPA Rule requires operators of websites and online services to get parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from kids under 13. FERPA protects the privacy of student education records. The statute generally prohibits educational agencies and institutions from disclosing those records without written consent from a parent.

The goal of Student Privacy and Ed Tech is to explore the intersection of COPPA, FERPA, and Ed Tech and to help provide guidance to schools, parents, Ed Tech providers, and others. The public notice has details, so here are just some of the topics on the table:

  • Do Ed Tech providers understand the requirements of COPPA and FERPA?
  • When is it OK for schools to provide COPPA consent? What’s the process?
  • Notice, deletion, and retention of records: How, when, and by whom?
  • COPPA and FERPA both include restrictions on Ed Tech vendors’ use of personal information collected from students. What are the appropriate limits on the use of that data?
  • When relying on the “school official” exemption to FERPA’s general consent requirement, how do schools maintain “direct control” over Ed Tech providers?

We welcome your comments about these issues and related ones. File them by November 17, 2017.  (It’s easy. The public notice explains how.)

Student Privacy and Ed Tech is free and open to the public. The workshop will take place at the FTC’s Constitution Center, 400 7th St., S.W., in Washington – and we’ll webcast it live.

In the meantime, check out the FTC’s Children’s Privacy compliance resources, including an FAQ about COPPA and Schools, and relevant guidance from the Department of Education.


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