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Student Privacy Bill Passes Oregon House Over Tech Company Objections


Lawmakers in the Oregon House approved a bill Wednesday that tightens online privacy protections for students.

It passed 53-4, with Reps. Jodi Hack, R-Salem; Julie Parrish, R-Tualatin; Bill Post, R-Keizer; and Mike Nearman, R-Dallas, voting “no.”

The bill easily sailed through the Oregon Senate in April, but ran into opposition in the House after lobbying by technology companies like Facebook and Amazon.
 
The companies pushed for an amendment to SB 187A that would have given parents the chance to opt-in to sharing more student data. Lobbyist group TechNet said they didn’t want the data to sell products to students.

“If Oregon’s vision for education is to create a pre-kindergarten through grade 20 pipeline, we should allow for technology to help connect students to information that is relevant to their current grade and their future possibilities,” the lobbyists wrote in a letter.

TechNet offered as examples that the opt-in sharing program would have allowed student athletes to share their performances with trainers and engineering students to use their data to apply for summer internships.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum

On the House floor Wednesday, Rep. Margaret Doherty, D-Tigard, said the bill allows students to share information in those ways.
 
Oregon’s bill was modeled on a 2014 California law.

Privacy bill supporter Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said the tech companies’ amendment could have put student information at risk.
 
“Take for an example Facebook,” Rosenblum said.  “Having access to this data from kids — K through 12 — at the point at which they connect to their content, their apps, and such, you can imagine a real opportunity for them to profile these kids, and market and advertise to them.”

The bill had the support of the teachers’ union, school boards, the Oregon Parent Teachers Association and the ACLU.

“Allowing corporations to access our children’s protected personal information is not only inappropriate, it may be unsafe,” those groups said in a letter. They advocated for lawmakers to pass the bill without the opt-in amendment.

The bill now heads to Governor Kate Brown.

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