SIIA Joins Other Organizations to Call for Guidance on Intersection of COPPA and FERPA

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In December 2017, the U.S. Department of Education and the Federal Trade Commission held a workshop focused on ed tech and student privacy. The workshop brought together a wide range of stakeholders interested in protecting student privacy – business, education, and consumer advocates.


Protecting student privacy is a top priority for SIIA members. Education technology companies take their responsibilities seriously and work to maintain the trust of their users. We’re pleased to join with so many organizations that are dedicated to protecting student privacy.


Now, a year later, SIIA, the Future of Privacy Forum and 12 other organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education and Federal Trade Commission urging them to provide additional guidance on the intersection of COPPA and FERPA.


The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) were written for different purposes and serve different roles: FERPA to protect, place limitations on unauthorized sharing of, and provide student or parent rights with respect to, specific types of data; COPPA to provide a broader framework providing protections around all aspects of online processing of children’s personal information for commercial purposes.


Under FERPA’s “school official exception” to the written consent requirement, schools are allowed to disclose FERPA-protected information with relevant and appropriate parties like ed tech providers performing institutional services that would otherwise be performed by school employees. Those providers must have a legitimate educational interest, be under the direct control of the school, and not use the information for any other reason than for which it was disclosed.


SIIA has urged the FTC to harmonize COPPA with FERPA’s school official exception to clarify that a school may consent to the collection of a child’s information on a parent’s behalf and that the right provided by COPPA for a parent to access, review, and have a child’s personal information deleted resides with the entity providing the consent. Clarification of COPPA’s role in the educational setting should not diminish a parent or eligible student’s rights to access and request amendment to information in a student’s education record through the school. SIIA’s comments for the workshop are available here.​

Sara Sara Kloek is SIIA's Director for Education Policy.