New in 2015: Increased Student-Privacy Protections and Collaborative Legislation
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have stoked parents’ concerns about how to protect the privacy of their children yet, until recently, few parents were aware that school districts across California are using taxpayer dollars to monitor, collect and store student social-media data and postings, potentially forever, leaving students vulnerable to security breaches.
School officials are well intentioned and have good reason for this type of monitoring. They hope to identify and prevent bullying, teen suicide and school violence, all of which are tragedies deserving of special attention and pro-active prevention measures. While the data collection serves a noble purpose, state law did not address how long the data would be kept, when it must be destroyed, and whether parents were made aware of the collection policies … until now.
I believe that when taxpayer dollars are being used by a government agency to monitor minors, parents have a right to know what that data is being used for and how long it will be stored. That’s why I authored AB 1442, which creates reasonable standards of privacy when school districts collect and analyze data that students post to social media websites. The measure requires that parents be notified of the collection policies, and that students be given the opportunity to examine information collected about them. I’m proud to share with you that after successfully passing the legislature, AB 1442 was signed by Gov. Brown and took effect on Jan. 1. Moreover, I’m heartened that various school districts, including GUSD, took these concerns seriously and took steps to proactively address them even before the legislation had passed.
This type of collaborative success proves that by working together, parents, elected officials and school officials can help protect our children and our communities while ensuring the privacy of students. In that spirit of collaboration, I issued a challenge to Californians across the state last year to help me draft the United States’ first-ever crowdsourced “Wikibill.”
The effort was designed to perfect other citizen-participation mechanisms like Petitions.WhiteHouse.Gov, which lacks mechanisms to force the government to act, and California’s Ballot Initiative process that can tie the hands of elected officials in perpetuity. The Wiki process was the perfect balance because it allowed vast numbers of people to directly participate in their government, but the ideas get vetted through the legislative process. The final result, AB 1520, received overwhelming support from the legislature, was signed into law by Gov. Brown, and also took effect on Jan. 1.
The success of each of these bills has inspired me to repeat the Wikibill challenge this year, but with a special focus on privacy.
As fears grow about the ability for technology like social media to intrude into our personal lives and violate individual liberties, I hope the Wikibill demonstrates that modern technology can be used to protect privacy and increase democratic participation.
Those interested in participating should visit www.MikeGatto.wikia.com. Once there, users can see what other people have proposed, propose bill text themselves, edit what others have proposed, and view the history of the entire process – just like a Wikipedia entry. I will introduce whatever consensus emerges by the State Legislature’s bill-introduction deadline, which is in early February 2015.
Mike Gatto is the chairman of the Consumer Protection and Privacy Committee, and the longest-serving current member of the State Assembly. He represents Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz and Silver Lake. Follow him on Twitter @MikeGatto or visit www.asm.ca.gov/gatto.