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Data privacy laws for US students

Data security is as important as data privacy. Therefore, the confidentiality of your personal information, as a student, should be upheld.

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Majority of the educators in the US are familiar with the federal student data privacy laws such as the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that is overseen by the United States Department of Education. Notably, modern education institutions are adopting advanced technologies like cloud service providers that help in managing homework assignments and education-related data.

Additionally, in protecting student privacy rights in higher education, it will not only require you to understand the federal laws, but you will also need to know the relevant state privacy laws.

The Main Federal Privacy Protection Laws

Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) safeguard the privacy of education records of a student. This Act dictates that parents have specific rights to their children’s education records while they are less than 18 years of age or in a K-12 surrounding. However, the Act states that these parents’ rights are transferred to their kids once they gain entrance to a higher education institution. As a student who has reached this stage, you are eligible and sole custodian of your education information.

Also, FERPA allows either the parents or you as an eligible student to review education records and request of any corrections to the same documents. If there is any other person who would like to access your education records, the school must have written permission either from the eligible student or the parents to disclose the information. However, some circumstances prompt the school to share your education records without your consent. For example, a court order demanding for the data, sharing your academic information to the school you are transferring to or sharing the information with teachers in the school who have a legitimate interest.

On the other hand, education information which is non-public and personally identifiable can be disclosed without your content as an eligible student or a parent. The authorized disclosure consists of details such as birth date, physical address, a telephone number, date of attendance and awards, and honors. Nevertheless, the school administration must inform you as a parent or an eligible student, giving you an opportunity to decline.

What are some of the most important privacy laws?

To safeguard the privacy of your education information as a student, a lot of legislatures have ratified their legislation that governs data security. A number of these laws affect institutions of higher learning outside original states because the students travel with them. These are some of the state privacy laws:

The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA)

The CCPA Act of 2018 provides restrictions governing businesses use of consumer data. This Act affects companies in higher learning that collect student information and protects all residents of California. Therefore, if you indicate that California is your state of residence, an educational institution outside California must ensure that their service providers adhere to the data privacy according to the Act.

Connecticut Working group

The state of Connecticut founded a working group in 2018 that would review the privacy of student’s devices in respect to search and seizure and the potential effects of social media contents that could trigger psychological health issues. Even though the working group capitalized on public education, the discourse could also be geared towards data privacy concerns in higher education institutions. Besides, the working group cited that the applications that educational institutions use to give learners educational opportunities should include privacy policies.

The 2018 Iowa bill

Even though the Bill was focusing on public schools and children in kindergarten to high school, it also provided additional third-party governance needs over applications. This provision meant that public schools’ service providers were required to safeguard students’ non-public information.

Rhode Island 2014 Privacy law

This law focuses, mainly, on online services rendered to students. For example, the law puts a caveat on the amount of data and information accessed by cloud services when delivering services to K-12 institutions.

Oklahoma 2013 Student Data Transparency and Accessibility law

This Act revolves around how the state collects the students’ data and requires it to have a well-laid data security policy. Also, the law lays specifications for every student’s data that institutions gather and use.

The impact of these laws on data security

Data security is as important as data privacy. Therefore, the confidentiality of your personal information, as a student, should be upheld and watertight measures should be applied by the institutions holding this information to ensure it is secure.

Data Quality Campaign reveals that there are more than 100 bills related to data privacy that were passed in 2016. Also, it records that apart from CCPA, many of these bills focused, mainly, on the public schools. On the flip side, most institutions of higher education feel that there is no need for aligning themselves with these laws. Nevertheless, they need to figure out the future governance of their students’ data.

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