Tech firms promise to safeguard student data

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After California Governor Jerry Brown passed the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA) on 29th September, a group of 14 industry players have promised to adopt its principles across the United States.

SOPIPA prohibits companies from selling, using and disclosing students’ photos, text messages, location information and other data for commercial purposes not authorised by schools.

Companies such as Microsoft, digital curriculum developer Amplify, publishing house Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Edmodo, an online educational network that lets teachers designate homework and gauge students’ progress, have publicly pledged not to sell data taken from students in kindergarten up through high school.

They also promised to refrain from compiling the personal profiles of these pupils or using their information for targeted ads unless permitted by parents or schools.

“We wanted to say to parents: No one’s going to sell your kids’ data; nobody’s going to track your child around the Internet; no one’s going to compile a profile that is used against your child when they apply for a job 20 years later,” said Jules Polonetsky, Executive Director of the Future Privacy Forum, which developed the manifesto in partnership with the Software & Information Industry Association.

“We hope this is a useful way for companies that want to be trusted partners in schools to make it clear they are on the side of responsible data use,” he added.

Although the Federal Trade Commission can enforce the public pledge, it is not legally binding. Some tech giants, including Apple and Google, are not participating.

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