Complying With The 'Pledge To Protect Student Privacy'

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A number of high-profile technology companies signed a voluntary commitment in October to protect student data. The "Pledge to Safeguard Student Privacy" asks companies functioning in education technology to ’not sell student personal information,’ ’not collect, maintain, use or share student personal information beyond that needed for authorized educational/school purposes,’ and ’Collect, use, share, and retain student personal information only for purposes authorized by the education institution/agency,’ among other privacy-driven acts.

Some 150 companies have signed the pledge, including Microsoft, Apple and Google.

According to Elaine Call, counsel for Boston-based educational technology company Cengage, while the pledge itself is not a law, there are legal repercussions in breaking the terms.

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’What’s important to keep in mind with the Privacy Pledge is that [the Federal Trade Commission] does have enforcement under Section 5 for unfair and deceptive trade practices, and so if you sign up to it, you really want to make sure you can comply with those terms,’ Call said.

’I do know that the FTC did bring in certain ed tech vendors who had signed to not necessarily investigate them, but to learn more, because it is a hot topic,’ Call said.

The Privacy Pledge became active on Jan. 1, 2015. Microsoft, Apple, and Google have all built and pushed sales in the education space, particularly in the privacy-sensitive K-12 vertical. Competition between Microsoft and Apple in particular has ramped up regarding tablets and desktops in the classroom.