… In general, we find the Department’s proposed changes to FERPA troubling on a number ofgrounds. Most significantly, we believe that the Department does not have the legal authority tomake all of the changes to the privacy requirements in FERPA that it proposes. We also havestrong concerns that the increased sharing of student information that the proposed rule willallow will diminish student privacy in a major and permanent way. WPF does support oneproposed change to FERPA, which we discuss in the comments.
The effect of many of the changes that the Department proposes will be to allow for the disclosure of heretofore confidential student records to agencies, organizations, and private entities that have little to do with education. It is inevitable that this allows the records to be used for secondary purposes, something that FERPA was largely intended to prevent. The result will be that student records will become general input to a wide range of activities, studies, evaluations, and the like on the pretext that there is some education result to be derived eventually. Student and parental records will be scattered to the winds to remote and untraceable parties, used improperly, maintained with insufficient security, and become fodder for marketers, hackers, and criminals. The confidentiality that FERPA promised to students and their families will be lost.
Read WPF’s analysis and commentary on their site (pdf).