Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

The Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) has compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on privacy, confidentiality, and security issues related to student-level data in local and/or state longitudinal data systems. The answers provided here are intended to assist staff in State and local educational agencies, early childhood agencies, and institutions of higher education that work with and/or contribute data to local or state longitudinal data systems, as well as others who are interested in this subject.

Frequently Asked Questions—Disclosure Avoidance (Oct 2012, Updated Jul 2015)

This document is intended to provide general guidance to the State and local educational agencies and institutions about protecting personally identifiable information in education records when publically reporting student data. The paper includes suggestions on how to ensure that necessary confidentiality requirements are met, including compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Cloud Computing (June 2012)

This document is designed to assist educational agencies and institutions that are considering using cloud computing solutions for education data. It contains responses to frequently asked questions about meeting necessary data privacy and data security requirements, including compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, to ensure proper protection of education records.

Commonly Cited Resources (Jan 2012)

This document provides an annotated list of useful resources on best practices in privacy and data security. The resources are organized into two categories: 1) U.S. Department of Education (ED) resources on privacy and data security and 2) External data security best practices resources. The ED resources section provides a brief overview of the offices within the Department. The External resources section lists government and private sector institutions highly regarded for their expertise in the areas of computer technology, data protection, and security.

What is the Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC)?

The Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) is a "one-stop" resource for education stakeholders to learn about data privacy, confidentiality, and security practices related to student-level longitudinal data systems.

Why was PTAC created?

PTAC was created to respond to the need for clarification for states and other education stakeholders on policy, technical/data security, and legal issues about student privacy. Increased scrutiny of education data management practices and concerns about privacy and confidentiality have prompted the U.S.

What are the other Department initiatives around privacy?

In addition to establishing PTAC, ED has hired a Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) tasked with ensuring the Department's compliance with federal laws, regulations, and policies related to information privacy, including implementation of the Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Who is the primary audience for PTAC materials?

The primary audience for PTAC are those involved with building, sharing data with, and/or using data from Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS).

What services does PTAC offer?

PTAC provides timely information and updated guidance on privacy, confidentiality, and security practices through a variety of resources, including training materials and activities.

Where can I send questions related to privacy, confidentiality, and security of education records?

Questions regarding privacy, confidentiality, and security of the data can be sent to the PTAC Help Desk. A Help Desk staff member will review your question and send an email to confirm receipt of your question within 24 hours.

How can I request technical assistance from PTAC?

PTAC staff conducts a limited number of Technical Assistance Site Visits each year. You can request on-site technical assistance by contacting the PTAC Help Desk.