As we shift to more virtual and distance-learning structures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that educators understand how privacy laws impact educators in this new environment. As schools and teachers work to quickly transition to digital tools, it is crucial to keep in mind the potential impact of sharing student data and private information online. The FBI warned in 2018 (https://bit.ly/2wKZT63) that the overuse or misuse of student data by ed-tech companies “could result in social engineering, bullying, tracking, identity theft, or other means for targeting children.[i]”
The major federal education law protecting student privacy is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. The foundational federal law on the privacy of students’ educational records, FERPA safeguards student privacy by limiting who may access student records, specifying for what purpose they may access those records, and detailing what rules they have to follow when accessing the data. Additional federal laws protecting student privacy include NSLA (National School Lunch Act), IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), PPRA (Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment) and COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act).