Durbin, Markey, Blumenthal Request Information On Student Data Collection Practices

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today sent letters to numerous education technology (EdTech) companies inquiring about data collection practices on American students. The Senators raised concerns that the learning tools used by these companies could pose a serious risk to students, parents, and educational institutions as a result of the potential for massive amounts of personal information to be stolen, collected, or sold without their permission or knowledge.  In 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a Public Service Announcement warning that malicious use of data collected by EdTech could result in “social engineering, bullying, tracking, identity theft, or other means for targeting children.”   

“From academic performance data and web histories, to location data and other personally identifiable information such as date of birth or address, it is imperative that we take steps to ensure students’ data is being secured and protected.  Parents, students, and educational institutions deserve to have more control over their data,” the Senators wrote.

Durbin, Markey, and Blumenthal also sent letters to numerous data brokers expressing similar concerns. Data brokers make student lists based on sensitive information ranging from Grade Point Average and ethnicity to religion and affluence, among other categories, commercially available. This data could be misused for a range of malicious purposes, including discrimination and identity theft. The Senators expressed concern that many of the students may not be aware their data is being retained and vulnerable to use by third parties.

“We urge you to make a clear statement to students that you are committed to transparent and fair data collection practices. We encourage you to adopt a comprehensive data privacy policy that ensures your company is directly obtaining informed consent from parents and students, and allows parents and students to fully delete any data retained by your company,” the Senators wrote.

Full text of the letter to educational technology companies is available here. Full text of the letter to data brokers is available here.

Companies that received today’s letter include: Google, Facebook, Smart Sparrow, DreamBox Learning, ScootPad, ST Math, Curriculum Associates i-Ready, Realizeit, Macmillan, McGraw-Hill, Snapwiz, Kaplan, Wiley Education, College Board, ACT, Pearson, Student Opportunity Center, Cognitive Toy Box, AdmitHub, Upswing, Formative, Flocabulary, BrightBytes, Hapara, Intellus Learning, Civitas Learning, Education Elements, No Red Ink, Straighter Line, Turnitin, Cengage, VitalSource, RedShelf, Barnes and Noble Education, Canvas/Instructure, Blackboard, Sakai, Moodle, D2L Brightspace, Edmodo, Quizlet, Schoology Accurate Leads, American Student Marketing, AmeriList, ASL Marketing, Caldwell List Company, Complete Mailing Lists, DataMasters, DMDatabases, Dunhill International List Co., Inc., Exact Data, InfoUSA, LakeB2B, NRCCUA, Scholarships.com.