"Privacy", G4114is (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

This week it was announced that the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act, which will soon be introduced to Congress for consideration, will not extend to college students.

The bill is designed to restrict ways in which educational technology companies can use the data of K-12 students. Ed tech companies have an interest in that data because they can data mine it for the purposes of targeted marketing and product development. But because of the risks it might pose to students, and because of the vulnerable position of K-12 students, legislators are seeking to limit ways in which this data can be used.

However, when asked to consider whether the legislation should extend those protections to college students, they decided not to.

Part of the rationale is that college students are a less vulnerable group than K-12 students, and if ed tech companies are in a better position to provide useful learning tools if they can leverage big data, then one might think that it’s worth the risks.

However, one might think that there is still a significant moral issue here when it comes to college students. College students might be less vulnerable in some respects, but they are just as vulnerable with respect to their ability to opt out of certain educational technologies. Often, use of educational technology is required by a college student’s home institution. Students cannot opt out. And so, even if college students are in a better position to assess the risks and make informed decisions than K-12 students, they are still less free opt out of using the technology.

What do you think? Should the bill be passed at all? If so, should it be extended to include college students?