- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

DENVER (AP) - Colorado lawmakers are moving to enact what is billed as one of nation’s toughest student privacy laws at a time when unscrupulous data collectors can identify youths by their keystrokes in typing class and sell their information.

Parents and educators have long worried about protecting students’ personal information as more software programs and apps are used in the classroom. Some parents fear their kids’ record in K-12 schools could hurt them when it comes time to apply for college or get a job.

The data collected can include grades, test results, opinions, addresses, behavioral issues or suspensions, and IDs.

The House on Thursday unanimously backed a bill that defines at what point data accumulated by in-class programs can identify students. The legislation from Reps. Paul Lundeen and Alec Garnett requires companies to destroy, not just delete, that information, unless authorized by contract to keep it. Deleted data can be traced and retrieved, the lawmakers say.

“It is designed to protect students who are increasingly defined by the trail of digital information that they create as they go through life and as they go through their education,” Lundeen told his House colleagues this week.

Technology has rapidly outpaced federal student privacy law, compelling 35 states to enact their own.

Lundeen, a Republican from Monument, and Garnett, a Democrat from Denver, say their bill goes beyond those laws by requiring “personally identifiable information” to be destroyed. The data cannot be used for advertising or sold to third parties. Violators could lose their contracts with schools or the state.

The bill also allows parents and guardians of Colorado’s 861,000 public-school students to know who is collecting what data and why.

“I’m a mom of three kids, and they’re all different,” Kim Monson, a Lone Tree city councilwoman, testified last week. “I certainly appreciate that their data will be private so that as they moved along in their careers they would not be pigeonholed by their behavior in second grade.”

Technology companies use algorithms of data they receive from the classroom to tailor individual teaching methods. Garnett and Lundeen’s concern is what becomes of that aggregate information developed over time.

Andrew Moore, chief information officer for the Boulder Valley School District, testified that the bill would require districts to identify what apps teachers are using. Infinite Campus, which tracks student and teacher data, and Typing Pal Online, which offers personalized keyboard skills, could be required to destroy some data, he said.

The Software Information Industry Association urged Colorado to adopt the model used by other states.

Existing laws, contracts and a privacy pledge adopted by the trade group’s members ensures data privacy, said Brendan Desetti, director of education policy. The Federal Trade Commission can enforce the pledge, he said.

Colorado educators could lose teaching opportunities because of an overly broad definition of what constitutes identifying information, Desetti said.

For example, aggregate data helped officials in Warren County, North Carolina, identify a need to enroll more minority and low-income students in advanced mathematics classes at an early stage, he said.

Companies wary of violating Colorado’s pending privacy rules might hesitate to work with educators to develop similar opportunities, Desetti said.

The bill now goes to the GOP-controlled Senate.


House Bill 16-1423: https://bit.ly/1VurDhD

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