Maryland Lawmakers Considering Limitations on School Cloud Providers
The House Ways and Means Committee of the Maryland General Assembly is scheduled to hear today a measure that would prevent cloud providers from using student data for most commercial purposes.
The measure, which is similar to recently approved legislation in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Arizona would prohibit cloud providers from using student information from school records, digital documentation, emails, and files for marketing and other commercial functions. Moreover, the bill would ban cloud providers from selling or forwarding any student data to third parties. Supporters of the measure maintain that the bill protects the privacy of students who attend school in Maryland.
According to supporters of the bill, many Maryland schools accepted free or very low-cost services from cloud providers without restricting the way these vendors use the information made available to them from student records. They claim that some of these providers mine the data to determine such information as student age, race, and religion. In addition, supporters of the measure worry that cloud providers gain access to sensitive information such as test scores, health, attendance, family background, disciplinary problems, and grades.
State legislatures in other states are also investigating the possibility of enacting laws that would prevent cloud providers and other technology vendors from using student information for commercial purposes. In many cases, lawmakers are considering bills based on a model proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council. The template encompasses the establishment of an education chief privacy officer who would be charged with creating and overseeing an inventory of all student information available to cloud providers as well as enforcing state and federal security and privacy rules.
The Oklahoma Legislature recently enacted a law that precludes the use of student information for any commercial, non-educational purposes. The measure requires transparency from cloud vendors about where data is stored and who has access to it. Similar measures are being considered by lawmakers in New York, and Massachusetts.
By Glenn Blake