Maryland bill would keep student information private

WASHINGTON — You’re a public school student compiling a sports-related book report. To conduct research, you use digital platforms provided to you through an agreement with the school system and an outside vendor.

“You could be writing articles about your baseball card collection, you could be sending emails on the same topic, and then suddenly you’re getting ads on that,” says Maryland Delegate Anne Kaiser, D-Montgomery County.

As a result, Kaiser is sponsoring a bill in Annapolis that would bar vendors from monetizing information gained from applications provided to school systems.

Referring to vendors and data brokers Kaiser says, “It shouldn’t be allowed for them to use a student’s information for advertising or marketing.”

The bill will be discussed at a hearing this Friday in Annapolis. It has 30 co- sponsors and bipartisan support.

“When you deal with privacy issues, you do get people from both ends of the spectrum,” she says.

The use of student information has been a growing concern since the Maryland Education Enterprise Consortium reached an agreement with Google to provide free access to Google Apps for Education, says Bethesda-based attorney Bradley Shear.

“What’s going to happen to the information that your students are going to turn over to the digital platform provider?” Shear asks.

While Kaiser’s bill is a good start, Shear says, adults should keep a close eye on how student information will be used.

“Is that information going to be safe? Or is that information then going to be turned over to an advertising company?” Shear asks.

Shear says HB 607 is a good start, but says parents and schools need to keep a close eye on the latest developments by cloud service providers and how information provided by students will be used.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

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