Federal proposal threaten student privacy

Critic: "The government is mandating the collection of more and more data without scrutinizing whether those legal standards are adequate."

Two new federal proposals will have a big impact on student privacy and have educators and privacy advocates very concerned, reports eSchool News.

The first proposal could force IT administrators to make expensive modifications so that law enforcement can have easier access to student information for cross-checking against sex-offender lists. The Federal Communications Commission wants to expand the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) to incude Internet phone calls and broadband wireless providers. Computer providers, including universities, have until May 2007 to comply. Law enforcement agencies reportedly would need a court order for such wiretaps.

The second proposal, from the Department of Education, would require a system for disclosing Social Security numbers and other unique identifiers. The federal government already has the power to compel disclosure of data through court orders, subpoenas and warrants, but now "the government is mandating the collection of more and more data without scrutinizing whether those legal standards are adequate", said Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology.

Colleges and universities may be exempt from the CALEA law if they limit campus computer use to students, faculty, and employees while also relying upon an outside vendor to construct or operate its actual Internet network.

"It could come down to something as basic as who owns the cable that connects a campus's network to the internet," said David Ward, American Council on Education (ACE) president.

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