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Obama Proposes Legislation on Data Breaches, Student Privacy

During a speech at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 12, President Obama unveiled several proposals to bolster America’s cybersecurity and better protect students’ privacy.

“So this week, I’m laying out some new proposals on how we can keep seizing the possibilities of an Information Age, while protecting the security and prosperity and values that we all cherish,” President Obama said in his speech. “Today, I’m focusing on how we can better protect American consumers from identity theft and ensure our privacy, including for our children at school.”

The president referenced a recent survey that revealed that 9 out of 10 Americans feel like they’ve lost control of their personal information and explained that in recent breaches, more than 100 million Americans have had their personal data, such as credit card information, compromised.

Here are four proposed steps he highlighted that could help make Americans, particularly children, more secure online.

1. Students’ Privacy Will Be Better Protected

Obama’s proposed Student Digital Privacy Act aims to better protect children’s privacy by preventing companies from selling student data, such as online search histories, for any reason other than for educational purposes.

This bill, modeled on a landmark California statute, builds on the recommendations of the White House Big Data and Privacy review released earlier this year. It would prevent companies from selling student data to third parties for purposes unrelated to education and from engaging in targeted advertising. However, it would still allow for important research initiatives to improve student learning outcomes, and efforts by companies to continuously improve the effectiveness of their learning technology products.

According to an article published in Slate, “private companies in the U.S. ed-tech space allow schools to collect data points about everything from lunch orders to disability status, making parents fearful that such information could be accidentally disclosed, or even follow their children into adulthood.”

As of now, student privacy regulation varies by state. Obama added that 75 companies, including Microsoft and Amplify, have signed the Student Privacy Pledge, an industry initiative that encourages companies to disclose what type of information they collect about students and how that information will be used.

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2. You’ll Be Notified if Your Data Has Been Stolen Within 30 Days

Right now, there is no rule that enforces how quickly companies must notify consumers if a data breach has affected them. The standards for data breaches differ by state and as Obama explained, it’s confusing and costly for companies who conduct business nationwide to comply with our country’s patchwork of laws.

Under Obama’s proposal, companies would be required to notify consumers of a breach within 30 days.

3. Free Access to Credit Scores

The president also proposed free access to credit scores for all Americans. He mentioned a number of banks, credit issuers and lenders who have already decided to begin offering free credit scores. This includes JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, USAA, State Employees’ Credit Union and Ally Financial.

Obama explained that a credit score is “like an early warning system telling you that you’ve been hit by fraud so you can deal with it fast.”

4. You Can Help Decide What Info Companies Collect from You

Under new legislation, a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, consumers would have the right to decide what personal data companies collect from them and how companies use that information. This includes the right to know that your personal information collected for one purpose cannot be misused by the company for another purpose, as well as the right to have your information stored securely by companies.

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