House committee votes to protect student online data
SALEM A bill that would prevent educational software developers from selling student data to third-party vendors cleared the Oregon House Education Committee Wednesday, June 3 even as a source inside the attorney generals office warned of increasing resistance from tech lobbyists.
Senate Bill 187, also known as the Oregon Student Information Protection Act, passed 5-4 with support from the Democrats on a party-line vote.
Proponents of the legislation say that todays 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.
The bill, which was introduced at the request of Oregon Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum, now awaits a floor vote by the House. The act was passed unanimously by the Senate on April 21. Rosenblums office said that there had been pushback against the bill from the industry.
Representatives spent less than 10 minutes discussing SB 187, with both sides making oblique references to the bills passage as a foregone conclusion.
I am extremely disheartened that the bill is going to move today, said Rep. Jodi Hack, R-Salem, before the bills passage. 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 Californias landmark online student information protection law, which goes into effect in 2017.
Were a market. We [may be] a moderate market, or a small market, but were 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 dont see [the bill] taking any technology away. I dont 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 One pro-privacy group, Common Sense Media, rescinded its support after the bill was amended to allow the disclosure of students personal information for school purposes.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 Chief Executive Officer James Steyer wrote in public testimony delivered to the Senate on Feb.26.
Republicans, however, said that the bill needs more amendments.
I was under the impression when the bill came over here that there was more work to be done. I dont know, maybe that was the wrong impression, said Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, R-Scio.
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 theres been too many of those in recent years.
In a press release, Rosenblum praised the bill for prohibiting data-mining, unless the process is used for a legitimate educational purpose.
Its scary to think we live in a world where data mining now starts as early as kindergarten. We must safeguard childrens data against inappropriate uses, Rosenblum said in the release.
Zane Sparling is a reporter with the Pamplin Media Group/EO Media Group Capital Bureau in Salem.