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Student Privacy Matters

When we hear the words “student data” or “student privacy” being tossed around, our ears always perk up, since securely verifying university students’ enrollment is one of the things we do best. We took special notice this week when media outlets like the Washington Post, WSJ, and Re/code have been abuzz about Obama’s proposed legislation around student privacy and endorsement of the Future of Privacy Forum’s Student Privacy Pledge. While the new legislation wouldn’t directly impact what we do here at SheerID, because it only applies to K-12 students, and we only verify college students, we applaud any effort that is going to keep students’ data safe and secure.
Companies who sign the voluntary pledge are promising that they won’t sell students’ information, use the data for behaviorally targeted ads, follow strict limits on data retention, and more. Some companies aren’t signing the pledge because they have their own strict privacy policies around K-12 student data. We think it’s great that the proposed legislation and the pledge are raising awareness and starting conversations around how student data is stored and used.

One of the reasons we started SheerID was because we want students to benefit from their own data without compromising their privacy. We’re proud of the fact that we never even see the authoritative data that we use to verify students’ enrollment. We get a lot of questions about how SheerID’s verification system works. Let us explain.

Let’s say you’re a student at U of O, and you want to use Spotify’s student discount. Spotify will ask you to fill out a short form with name, birthday, and what school you attend. SheerID takes that information and bumps it up against authoritative enrollment data. We don’t see the enrollment data, we just get a reply that says “yes, it matches”, or “nope, it doesn’t”. We return that yes or no to Spotify, and if the answer was yes, you get your Spotify membership for $4.99. The process is super-easy and super-quick. We don’t store the information you typed into the form, and we don’t require you to join any online communities or jump through any hoops to get your discount. You’re not going to get creepy re-targeting ads or unsolicited spam from us because we don’t store your information. Plus, we’re nicer than that.

We figure college students have enough to think about without also worrying about who has your personally identifiable information and how they’re using it.


Photo credit: Flickr user KMo Foto

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