Georgia’s new chief privacy officer appointed earlier this month said she will focus on training school districts about the importance of both collecting and protecting data on Georgia students.
The position was created by a new student privacy law passed this year, setting strict guidelines on what kind of information can be collected and preventing the sale of data on students. It also prevents third-party sites or application used in schools from using data on kids to target advertising.
State officials said many of those practices already were being used by the education department and adding them to state law is a follow-up measure. Much of the responsibility for overseeing the requirements will fall on Williams, who has handled data issues within the Department of Education since joining the agency in 2000. She wants to be sure officials in all school districts are well-trained and parents, students and teachers understand why the data can be useful.
“Data paints a picture,” she said. “We never collect data just because we’re curious.” Data is collected because it’s required, and because programs can evaluate their work.
Supporters of state-level restrictions on the collection and use of student data have called Georgia’s new student privacy law “the most comprehensive” example among bills introduced in 46 states this year. Rachel Anderson, a senior associate of policy and advocacy with the nonprofit Data Quality Campaign, said states need to stay vigilant as technology’s use in classrooms continues to grow.
“We are in a much better place in terms of states having really strong laws, but there’s no finish line,” she said.
Georgia’s education officials already had a good reputation within the industry but parents sometimes have questioned why the state needs to collect data on student performance or background and how that information is used, said Dana Rickman, policy and research director with the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education. One official focused on ensuring that students’ privacy is balanced with schools’ need for information can help districts statewide, she said.
“You have districts with resources that are really on top of this and have the ability to make sure their data is secure, while smaller districts didn’t have the resources or understanding,” Rickman said.
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