M. Fertik: Department of Education hires first Chief Privacy Officer

April 15th, 2011

This post was written by Michael Fertik, CEO and founder of Reputation.com and co-author of Wild West 2.0: How to Protect Your Online Reputation on the Untamed Social Frontier.

Here’s some possible good news about privacy for students.  The U.S. Department of Education just hired its first Chief Privacy Officer and proposed new data privacy rules to protect student education records.  The Department is basing its rules on “FERPA,” a 1974 law designed to protect education records from a much less digital era.

More awareness and caution around privacy is always a good thing.  I suspect the Department of Education could improve privacy with some good rules.

But the Department of Education is just one part of the government, and it only has power to issue rules relating to student records.  These new privacy rules are a step in the right direction for awareness, but we need comprehensive privacy reform rather than more piecemeal steps.  We need a truly comprehensive system of privacy protections, rather than just more temporary solutions and bandages.  Until we recognize that individuals have important rights in their own private information, we’ll be forced to rely on these incomplete solutions.

My takeaway: I’m glad the Department of Education is thinking about privacy.  But these new rules are just a reminder that our current system of privacy protection is incomplete and relies on piecemeal regulation in each different industry.  We can do better.

– Michael Fertik

The views expressed here are those of the author and not those of his clients, employers, investors or anybody else.