FTC Warns Education Companies to Not Store Children's Personal Information

NBC 7 Responds looks at the FTC's reminder that children's student data is protected.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Ever since the pandemic closed schools, online tools for learning have become much more common. Now, the FTC is making sure companies know there are protections when it comes to a student's personal data.

"It is against the law to force parents and schools to surrender their children's privacy rights to do schoolwork online or attend a class remotely," said Rosario Mendez, an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission.

COPPA, or the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, has been around for more than two decades, but in a new policy, the FTC is making it clear that companies need to protect student data.

"The ability of businesses to make money out of user information has created an ecosystem of companies that incentivize tracking and collecting of personal information," Mendez said.

The FTC said it has seen signs that user data collection is making its way into the educational technology industry. With this month's announcement, Mendez said, the FTC is trying to stop that and to let parents know what protections are available under COPPA. The restrictions include:

  • Prohibiting mandatory collection
  • Prohibiting companies from using student information for any commercial purpose
  • Student data can only be kept as long as is necessary for educational purposes
  • Companies must protect the confidentiality and integrity of children's personal information.

Mendez said the FTC will crack down on any companies that violate COPPA.

Consumers can always reach out to their child's school if they have questions about student privacy in connection to any online platforms they may use in their curriculum.

More information on COPPA and what it protects can be found on the FTC's website.

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