Thursday, December 31, 2015

Google, a ‘school official?’ This regulatory quirk can leave parents in the dark.

...Google's U.S. educational partnerships are possible thanks in part to school districts' reliance on the government's reinterpretation of an obscure 1970s-era student privacy law.
The law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA, requires schools to get written consent from parents before sharing personal information about students in many cases or risk federal education dollars. But it has an exception for sharing data with "school officials" who have a "legitimate educational interest" in the data.

When it was first enacted, that meant someone who was actually employed by the school district, according to Joel Reidenberg, a Fordham University law professor who has researched student data privacy. But changes in how the Department of Education interpreted the law in recent years now allow almost any individual or organization that contracts with a school district for some sort of educational function to be termed a "school official," he said.

In 2008, the "school official" exemption was extended to cover contractors because it was "critical" to establish rules for "non-consensual disclosures" as schools outsource more functions, according to an analysis of the changes from the department. To qualify for the designation, companies are supposed to provide a service the district would otherwise do itself and are held to the same general rules for use and restrictions on disclosing student data that govern traditional school officials....


  1. Another classic example of exceptions trumping regulations.

  2. Google is the ubiquitous 'blob' of the digital era.


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