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Letter: Legislation Will Aid Wilton Students, Reduce Piracy

Toni Boucher
Toni Boucher Photo Credit: Contributed

WILTON, Conn. -- The Wilton Daily Voice accepts signed and original letters to the editor up to 350 words. To submit a letter, e-mail wilton@dailyvoice.com.

To the Editor:

Technology has made information easier to aggregate and distribute than ever before, and the role of big data in government and private enterprise has grown accordingly.

Education is no exception.

Student information is a valuable resource for educators in gauging the effectiveness of different teaching methods and providing a more accurate sense of student progress.

At the same time, the collection of this data, with the often sensitive personal information it contains, raises serious questions about data security and privacy.

Growing incidences of cyber-crime and identity theft mean our children’s information is vulnerable to misuse.

Seeking to prevent this from occurring, the General Assembly recently enacted a law that will provide much needed protection for student data.

HB 5469, An Act Concerning Student Data Privacy, passed unanimously in both chambers of the legislature, testifying to the seriousness with which this issue is held by lawmakers, and the efforts of numerous parents who have voiced their concerns about the security of their children’s information.

It now awaits the governor’s signature.

The bill focuses on contractors and the operators of websites, online services and mobile apps that work in tandem with local boards of education, the state Board of Education and the state Department of Education to store data and provide other electronic services for school purposes.

These vendors will be required to outline and maintain security practices to protect student data.

Vendors also will be prohibited from using personally identifiable student information for advertising purposes or for any purpose, apart from what their contract stipulates, and cannot retain student records after the contract services have been fulfilled.

Contractors also must set procedures to alert school boards and parents of any suspected breach of data in no more than 48 hours.

Operators of websites and electronic services used for school purposes would be under similar restrictions.

The bill prevents them from engaging in targeted advertising using student information, or to use this information for purposes unrelated to school.

The operator also must delete student information upon the request of a student, parent or school board, and will face a civil penalty if it neglects to do so.

As schools collect more and more information on our students in order to improve educational outcomes, we must be sensitive to both the opportunities and vulnerabilities this growing pool of data creates.

This bill is effective in balancing the needs of school districts and the desire for privacy among students and parents.

By outlining how contractors and consultants can and cannot use the information they collect, we will be better able to ensure that malfeasance is not occurring and are able to prosecute those involved when it is.

Our children are our most important resource, and in a time when more personal information is available and susceptible to illicit distribution, we must make sure that the data they provide as students is dedicated to improving their quality of education and aiding them in achieving their true potential and not used in ways that may potentially harm them.

This bill is an important step in that direction.

The concerned parents that advocated to move this bill forward get high praise for the success of this nationally groundbreaking and timely legislation.

State Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton

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