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National Poll Reveals Deep Concern for How Students' Personal Information Is Collected, Used, and Shared

As educational settings become more and more integrated with technology, and more and more students are accessing educational resources in the cloud, privacy concerns are also on the rise. We at Common Sense Media believe students and families should have the right to control their privacy and personal information online, and we advocate for educational, legislative, regulatory and other tools to enhance their choice and control. Early in January, we set out to determine adult awareness and concern for issues related to student data privacy and we found that overwhelmingly, American adults support reforms to protect students.

In fact, 89% of those adults polled, are "very" or "somewhat" concerned about advertiser's using kids' personal data to market to them.

Many parents are in the dark about the private information schools collect. Almost six in 10 parents have heard little or nothing about schools letting private companies store personal data about their children. When informed that there are few restrictions limiting these companies from using the personal information for marketing purposes, parents and nonparents around the country express overwhelming concern.

"What we are hearing from American families is that students' personal and private information must not be for sale, period," said Jim Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media. "What we are clearly seeing from this poll is that schools should be completely off-limits when it comes to collecting the personal information of students for marketing purposes. The school zone must, at all times, be a safe privacy zone. It is critical that educators, the technology industry, and our nation's leaders establish universal best practices that safeguard students' personal information that is collected by schools."

The telephone poll of 800 adults was conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group for Common Sense Media from January 6 to 10.

Some highlights from our findings include:

1. 90% of adults are concerned about how non-educational interests are able to access and use students' personal information.

2. There is strong support for the implementation of policies to protect students, including:

· Increasing transparency by requiring schools to notify parents before they share students' personal data with private companies (91%)

· Creating tighter security standards to protect students' private information that is stored "in the cloud" (89%)

· Making it illegal for schools and education-technology companies to sell students' private information to advertisers (77%)

· Restricting companies from using students' online habits and searches on school computers to target online advertisements to them (74%)

· Restricting cloud services such as Google from using students' email, online searches, and Web histories to build profiles of personal data and demographics over time (70%)

3. Thirty percent of parents don't know anything about how their schools currently collect, use, store, and destroy students' data, including social security numbers, grades, and behavior and attendance records.

4. Very few voters believe the argument that tighter regulations will stifle innovation, increase costs, or be overly burdensome.

In late 2013, we launched a School Privacy Zone campaign to engage edtech industry leaders, educators, policymakers, parents, and other stakeholders to develop safeguards for students' personal information. On February 24, Common Sense Media will convene a national summit in Washington, D.C., featuring key stakeholders and policymakers, including the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to outline practices that support connected classrooms that respect and safeguard student privacy.

As new legislation gets introduced, both at the state and federal levels, we will keep you informed.

What steps is your school taking to protect student data? What experiences do you have with marketing messages infiltrating your classroom? Comment below.

Amy Wilson
I am a former high school physics teacher. I live with my husband and two children in Sausalito, CA