Giving Compass' Take:

• Sharon Lurye reports on new research that found that student data was readily available for sale in spite of federal laws intended to protect student privacy.

• How can federal laws that attempt to protect student data be improved? How should schools factor student privacy into their EdTech decisions? 

• Find out how Chinese companies are acquiring American student data.

Strict federal privacy laws protect the private information of students. But those laws only apply to schools. As a new report from Fordham University shows, there are more than a dozen private brokers in the U.S. that can freely sell student data.

These brokers advertise lists of students with all manner of specific characteristics, from home-schooled Christians to teenage girls interested in birth control. However, even after years of research, the authors of the study found it almost impossible to find out where the student data on these lists came from.

“It’s a black-box, opaque marketplace,” said Cameron Russell, a co-author of the study, which was published on June 6 by Fordham’s Center on Law and Information Policy.

The study found 14 companies that market student data to commercial interests. Researchers were careful to search for brokers who stated that they had access to “student” data, not just to data on children generally.

One data broker advertised mailing lists with names like “Jewish Students in New York by Education Level,” “Rich Kids of America” and “The Awkward Years – High School Students.” Researchers contacted a sales representative from this company to ask if they could buy a list of “fourteen- and fifteen-year-old girls for family planning services” – and she readily agreed. While the researchers discontinued contact as they did not actually want this list, they wrote in the report that the sales rep “relentlessly” followed up on their inquiry.

Read the full article about student data privacy by Sharon Lurye at The Hechinger Report.