As FTC Warns EdTech Providers Against Student Surveillance, EPIC Urges Further Action

May 19, 2022

The Federal Trade Commission today unanimously approved a policy statement that prioritizes enforcement of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) against education technology providers and warns companies not to make surveillance a condition of accessing educational tools. The use of edtech expanded dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools,” the statement reads. “Going forward, the Commission will closely scrutinize the providers of these services and will not hesitate to act where providers fail to meet their legal obligations with respect to children’s privacy.”

EPIC Law Fellow Sara Geoghegan delivered comments commending the FTC’s new policy and encouraging the Commission to use all of its authorities to protect children’s and students’ privacy, including promulgating a data minimization rule. The comments highlighted EPIC’s complaint against online test proctoring firms, which laid out how the pandemic exacerbated inequalities among students and how proctoring firms’ use of opaque, intrusive, and unreliable automated decision-making harms test-takers.

EPIC has long advocated for students’ and children’s privacy protections and regularly calls on the FTC to curb data abuses.

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