Arnold Mooney introduces bill to protect education privacy

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On Wednesday, Alabama Rep. Arnold Mooney of Birmingham held a news conference at Jefferson State Community College in Birmingham to announce a bill aimed at protecting the privacy of parents and students across the state.

Mooney worked hand-in-hand with a number of organizations to create the bill, including the Eagle Forum of Alabama, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, the Southeast Law Institute, and Education Liberty Watch.

The bill sets limits on what data may be collected and shared, what data may be used on a local level for specific academic purposes and on state government and data collection systems in order to “protect students and parents from invasive practices.”

“It protects the civil liberties of students and parents, which are foundational to strong academics, freedom of speech and progress,” Mooney said during his announcement. “It limits the collection of certain sensitive information and the disclosure of personally identifiable student information to third parties and provides for enforcement and penalties.”

Mooney noted that there’s a lack of sufficient privacy protections for students in Alabama’s public schools on the state and federal level. As technology has progressed at a rapid pace, legislation has not kept up in order top protect the privacy of vulnerable users.

“Students are being used as pawns in experimental programs, tracked by the government and tracked by corporations tracking these students to sell and research their products,” Mooney said. “Parents who send their children to public school should not have to give up their privacy rights to receive an education in Alabama’s public schools.”

The Student and Parent Privacy Protection Act seeks to keep data and student information on the local level, prohibit the broad sharing of personal data, prohibit the collection of “highly sensitive information” and the “invasive overreach of outside parties,” provides parents and students access to monitor their personal records.

“Our houses of learning should be places where freedom of thought and creativity are celebrated to the highest degree,” said Deborah Love, executive director for the Eagle Forum of Alabama. “This liberty and creativity in education cannot be respected and maintained today without privacy protections.”

“Every person should have the right to decide who they want to share personal, private information with,” said Susan Watson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama. “Privacy is not about keeping secrets, it is about maintaining control over our own lives.”

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