President Obama Moves to Protect Student Data Privacy

January 2015

On January 12, President Barack Obama announced his intention to push legislation to strengthen student data privacy. The president’s proposed Student Digital Privacy Act seeks to ensure that data collected by online or mobile educational programs are used only for educational purposes.

The framework for the proposal is a recently enacted California law—the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA)—that prohibits companies operating online or mobile educational programs from using or selling K–12 student information. The law also prevents companies from using data to create student profiles for noneducational purposes and from advertising to students. SOPIPA includes an exemption that allows data to be used for legitimate research purposes.

In announcing his proposal, President Obama said, “We're confident that it will make sure the tools we use in the classroom will actually support the breakthrough research and innovations that we need to keep unlocking new educational technologies.”

Student data privacy is an issue of interest on Capitol Hill and may come up in the 114th Congress. The House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing on the topic in June 2014. In addition, a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate in 2014 would have amended the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to extend privacy protections.