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Why We Need Safeguards to Protect Kids' Data

Read my open letter to ed-tech leaders urging them to develop national safeguards for the personal data collected on students.

Dear Company,

As the founder and CEO of the leading non-profit working to help kids, parents, and teachers succeed with media and technology at home and at school, I'm writing to you about an issue that is of deep concern to me and to many parents.

There's no denying that educational technology has the potential to transform learning for any child anywhere. That's why Common Sense Media has committed to helping every K-12 teacher in this country discover and succeed with the highest-possible-quality edtech. However, as we embrace the power of apps, games, websites, and digital courseware to engage and inspire learning, we are also deeply concerned about every student's right to privacy.

Through online platforms, mobile applications, and cloud computing, schools and edtech providers collect massive amounts of data that contain sensitive information about students -- information that needs to be kept out of the hands of non-educational, commercial interests and other third parties. In support of connected classrooms that respect and safeguard student privacy, we are launching the School Privacy Zone campaign and reaching out to key stakeholders in an effort to initiate a national conversation about this critical issue.

To start the discussion, we propose three basic principles that attempt to balance the tremendous opportunity provided by education technology with the need to foster a trusted learning environment committed to children's educational development where their personal information is protected.

These initial principles are:

  1. Students' personal information shall be used solely for educational purposes.
  2. Students' personal information or online activity shall not be used to target advertising to students or families.
  3. Schools and education technology providers shall adopt appropriate data security, retention, and destruction policies.

As a leading player in the industry, we seek your feedback on this complex topic. We would like to explore these principles with you and look forward to engaging in an open and constructive dialogue.

During the next several months, we will be working with other industry leaders, policymakers, educators, and parents to define a set of best practices for using educational technology that benefits students over all other interests. This will lead to the convening of a school privacy summit in Washington, D.C., in early 2014, in which we sincerely hope you will participate.

It is in everyone's best interest for all stakeholders to work together in this critical effort to protect students' privacy. This is the only way to ensure our students benefit from the transformative promise of edtech while guaranteeing that their privacy is preserved.

Sincerely yours,

James P. Steyer
CEO and Founder
Common Sense Media

Jim Steyer

Jim is Common Sense Media's CEO and founder -- read all about him here.