Student Data: Trust, Transparency and the Role of Consent

Organization: Future of Privacy Forum
Author: Jules Polonetsky and Joseph Jerome
Published: October 1, 2014

“Student Data: Trust, Transparency and the Role of Consent” discusses how over the past decade, new technologies in schools have generated an “explosion of data” for public school systems to use and analyze. Accordingly, the Department of Education has identified the use of student data systems to improve education as a top national priority even as an increased focus on data has raised legitimate privacy concerns.

With parents worried that student data is being used for marketing purposes without appropriate contractual and legal safeguards, a “notice and choice” regime has had intuitive appeal. However, the paper shows that providing parents more notice and choice may do little to further student privacy while at the same time unintentionally excluding children from necessary education services.

The paper discusses the practical implications of consent requirements; explores how existing federal laws protect student data; and compares the activities of data vendors and the role of individual consent in the health and financial sectors. It argues that parents should not be resigned to opt-out of embracing new technologies as a result of legitimate privacy concerns. The paper concludes that policymakers must devise better ways to inform parents about how their children’s data is being used, and to provide students and parents with better tools to inform learning.