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Newly signed bill protects student privacy

Law will prevent sale of data to third-party vendors starting next year


ROSENBLUMOregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill June 22 that’s designed to prevent educational software developers from selling student data to third-party vendors, despite increasing opposition from tech lobbyists.

Senate Bill 187, also known as the Oregon Student Information Protection Act, passed the House on a 53-4 vote on June 10. The bill, which was introduced at the request of Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, was passed unanimously by the Senate on April 21, and SB 187 goes into effect July 1, 2016.

In a press release, Rosenblum praised the bill for prohibiting data-mining, unless the process is used for a legitimate educational purpose.

“It’s scary to think we live in a world where data mining now starts as early as kindergarten. We must safeguard children’s data against inappropriate uses,” Rosenblum said in the release.

Proponents of the legislation say that today’s K-12 students are monitored in ways previous generations would find unthinkable. Educational “apps” and other online programs require students to create personal accounts that track everything from test results to disciplinary records — even political, religious and socioeconomic affiliations.

“These educational tools are valuable, but Oregon must draw clear lines when it comes to our children’s data. Our students should not become a captive audience for targeted corporate marketing,” Rosenblum said in the release.

Rosenblum’s office said that there had been “pushback” against the bill from industry lobbyists.

Representatives on the House Committee on Education spent less than 10 minutes discussing SB 187 before sending it to the House floor for a final vote, with both sides making oblique references to the bill’s passage as a foregone conclusion.

“I am extremely disheartened that the bill is going to move today,” Rep. Jodi Hack (R-Salem) said before the vote. “My grave concern is about whether or not the software companies will actually be willing to work with the state of Oregon.”

Democrats dismissed that argument, noting that SB 187 largely mirrors California’s landmark online student information protection law, which goes into effect in 2017.

“We’re a market. We [may be] a moderate market, or a small market, but we’re a market, and we should be looking for the tools that will actually forward education,” Rep. Susan McClain (D-Hillsboro), said during the committee meeting. “I don’t see [the bill] taking any technology away. I don’t see it taking any tools away.”

Industry lobbyists offered testimony both for and against the bill. One pro-privacy group, Common Sense Media, rescinded its support after the bill was amended to allow the disclosure of students’ personal information for “school purposes.”

“The amendments broadly permit service providers to disclose ... personal information ... without any downstream restrictions for the recipients’ use or subsequent disclosure,” Common Sense Media CEO and founder James Steyer wrote in public testimony delivered to the Senate on Feb. 26.

Republicans, however, said that the bill needed more amendments.

“I was under the impression when the bill came over here that there was more work to be done. I don’t know, maybe that was the wrong impression,” Rep. Sherrie Sprenger (R-Scio) said.

Rep. Greg Barreto (R-Cove) echoed that sentiment.

“With a bill like this, you ought to have everybody on board,” he said. “And to pass a bad bill to get it to the floor, I think there’s been too many of those in recent years.”

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