Student Data Privacy Bill Heads to Governor’s Desk

S.110 – a wide-ranging data privacy and consumer protection law is on Governor Phil Scott’s desk.

This VPIRG-supported bill contains a number of key provisions aimed at better protecting Vermonters’ personal information, informing them when their data has been compromised and keeping them out of unwanted ‘zombie contacts.’

S.110 was introduced at the beginning of the 2019 legislative session – and VPIRG members and advocates supported the bill during long and somewhat complicated journey to the governor’s desk. Ultimately the version of the bill that passed both chambers of the legislature on voice votes, contains several important consumer protections. Specifically, if enacted, S.110 would:

– Institute data protections for Vermont students: Modeled on California’s Student Online Personal Information Protection Act – this section of the bill prevents educational technology companies from using information collected about students for non-educational purposes.

– Bring transparency to the state of Vermont’s data practices: The bill requires the State of Vermont itself to undertake a privacy inventory and report on what personal information the state is currently collecting, storing and, in some cases, disseminating to third parties. This report could lead to further legislation to reform how the state itself collects and distributes data.

– Modernizes Vermont’s data breach notification law: The bill expands the universe of breached data that would require companies to notify consumers (by including things like login information) and puts stronger requirements in place for when companies must give consumers direct notice of breached information.

Improves on Vermont’s nation-best automatic contract renewal law: Not only did consumer protection advocates succeed in removing the language in S.110 that would have partially repealed Vermont’s law preventing unwanted automatic contract renewals. Ultimately, S.110 improved that law by strengthening the requirement for how companies must notify consumers of impending renewals and by making it easier for consumers to opt out of those renewals if they choose (e.g. by requiring companies to allow consumer to cancel online if they were able to sign up for the service online).

The bill passed both chambers with broad tri-partisan report, so while we would expect the governor to sign this commonsense law, we’re not taking anything for granted. We’ve heard report of lobbyists from the educational tech industry making last minute pleas for a veto to the bill – so we’re calling on VPIRG members to contact the governor and ask him to sign S.110.