Education software is a multi-billion dollar industry that is rapidly growing. The federal government has encouraged this growth through a series of initiatives that reward schools for tracking and aggregating student data. Amid this increasingly digitized education landscape, parents and educators have begun to raise concerns about the scope and security of student data collection. Industry players, rather than policymakers, have so far led efforts to protect student data. Central to these efforts is the Student Privacy Pledge, a set of standards that providers of digital education services have voluntarily adopted. By many accounts, the Pledge has been a success. Since its introduction in 2014, over 300 companies have signed on, indicating widespread commitment to the Pledge’s seemingly broad protections for student privacy. This industry participation is encouraging, but the Pledge does not contain any meaningful oversight or enforcement provisions. This Article analyzes whether signatory companies are actually complying with the Pledge rather than just paying lip service to its goals. By looking to the privacy policies and terms of service of a sample of the Pledge’s signatories, I conclude that noncompliance may be a significant and prevalent issue. Consumers of education software have some power to hold signatories accountable, but their oversight abilities are limited. This Article argues that the federal government, specifically the Federal Trade Commission, is best positioned to enforce compliance with the Pledge and should hold Pledge signatories to their promises.
Alexi Pfeffer-Gillett, Peeling Back the Student Privacy Pledge, 16 Duke Law & Technology Review 100-140 (2018)