Microsoft is the first of a collection of tech companies that will be signing a pledge to protect and respect the data of school students.

The Future of Privacy Forum and the Software & Information Industry Association drafted the Pledge to Safeguard Student Privacy. Some of the other organizations on board include Amplify, Code.org, DreamBox Learning, Edmodo, Follett and Gaggle.

"This industry-led pledge to honor student data privacy is an important step in the right direction," says Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association. "Those vendors who opt to take the pledge are demonstrating their public commitment to responsible data practices in a manner that will help support school boards' efforts to safeguard student privacy."

Entities that sign the pledge vow they won't sell student information, target the youth via behavioral advertising or change privacy polices without notice. They pledge to use authorized data for educational purposes alone, set hard limits on data retention, support parental access to the students' information, and deliver transparency in their use of the data.

"Educational leaders expect transparency from their service providers, especially as more and more information is stored in digital format and privacy concerns rise," says Keith R. Krueger, CEO of the Consortium of School Networks. "The new K-12 Service Provider Pledge to Safeguard Student Privacy is an important step forward in that movement. Parents, policymakers and educators want clear and consistent privacy policies, and they need their service providers to not only comply with privacy laws, but also to be leaders by publicly outlining how they will protect all student data. Transparency leads to trust."

SIIA and FPF say the pledge was drafted with the intent of encouraging service providers to better articulate current industry practices so that everyone is clear on how they are expected to use student data and respect their privacy. The SIIA and FPF say more service providers will take the vow over the next few months.

SIIA and FPF drew up the pledge with input from education organizations, stakeholders, service providers and U.S. Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Luke Messer, R-Ind.

"While technology is a powerful tool for teaching and learning, it is imperative that students' personal information is protected at all times," says Otha Thornton, president of the National Parent Teacher Association. "National PTA applauds K-12 school service providers that have pledged to safeguard student data and privacy and effectively communicate with parents about how student information is used and protected. We look forward to even more support going forward." 

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