White House Tackles Big Data Privacy

    Feb 25, 2015

    It appears that President Obama has staked out big data privacy as a part of his legacy, and he’s starting with legislation that would protect students’ personal information collected through educational applications. 

    Reuters recently reported that the White House is working with top lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to draft legislation aimed at ensuring that students’ data is used only for educational and legitimate research purposes. It “is the first of President Obama’s ‘big data’ privacy plans to gain traction in the Republican-controlled Congress,” noted the news service.

    The issue of big data privacy has gained momentum as a result of such high-profile data breaches as those experienced by Target, Sony, Home Depot, and, most recently, Anthem. Fortunately, there have not been any high-profile cases of student data breaches. “It’s been certainly more a fear of what could happen than any actual significant issues,” Jules Polonetsky, executive director of the think tank Future of Privacy Forum, told Reuters. 

    Privacy concerns halted plans for a national database of student data by a nonprofit initiative called inBloom Inc., funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In the meantime, some states have started passing laws and more than 100 companies – including Microsoft and Google – have signed a voluntary pledge to prevent misuse of student data.

    Polonetsky added that there is “wide consensus that having a broad set of standards is essential.”

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