Student Online Privacy Bill Passes VT Senate

The Vermont Senate gave final approval Thursday to a VPIRG-backed bill (S.110) aimed at protecting students and their parents from the misuse of data collected via educational software.

The bill is modeled on legislation enacted in California in 2016 that prevents technology companies from using student data gathered via educational software and websites for non-educational purposes. More specifically, the bill prohibits so-called ed-tech companies from selling student data, using the data to amass a profile on the student for marketing purposes, or using the student data for targeted advertising directed at either the student or their parent.

The bill was approved via a voice vote and now heads to the House for consideration.

The legislation was the product of a working group authorized as part of the data broker regulation law enacted last session. In addition to putting in place first-in-the-nation regulations around the data broker industry, that law tasked the Attorney General’s office with taking public input and making recommendations on further data privacy protections for the legislature to consider.

VPIRG participated in that process – and the student data privacy legislation was among the requests that emerged from that group. S.110 also incorporates additional broader consumer protections (some of which also came out of the working group process).

In addition to implementing the student privacy measure – S.110 would also modernize Vermont’s security breach notification law by both expanding the universe of breached data that would require companies to notify consumers and by putting stronger requirements in place for when companies must give consumers direct notice of breached information.

The bill also tasks 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.

VPIRG will continue to track and support this bill in the House and try to strengthen it even more before final passage.