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Postsecondary Data Infrastructure: What is Possible Today

Published Jun 2019
focus area Data & Transparency

Our current federal postsecondary data system is incomplete and fails to provide today’s students with the accurate, timely information that they need to inform their college choices and promote their success. As policymakers consider proposals to improve this federal data system, they should model best practices of responsible data-use to ensure that all postsecondary data is secure and student privacy is protected.

This paper, authored by Amy O’Hara, Research Professor at the Georgetown University Massive Data Institute, highlights promising examples of data systems that are prioritizing privacy and security. These examples span from government agencies to academia and cover sectors ranging from healthcare to national defense. In this analysis, O’Hara uses a “Five Safes” framework as an approach for guiding secure data practices:

  • Safe projects require governance protocols to control project requests, review, and approval processes;
  • Safe people ensure that data users are screened and appropriately trained;
  • Safe settings and safe data restrict what data an analyst is authorized to use, how they access it, their computing environment, and their physical location; and
  • Safe outputs protect the privacy of data subjects by reducing the risk of individuals being re-identified.

This paper is part of Protecting Students, Advancing Data: A Series on Data Privacy and Security in Higher Education.

Protecting Privacy and Information Security in a Federal Postsecondary Student Data System provides an in-depth look at the current legislative and regulatory landscape for postsecondary data privacy and security at the federal level.

The Emergence of Data Privacy Concerns and State Responses explores lessons learned about the development and implementation of new student privacy policies at the state level.

The series is a result of efforts by the Postsecondary Data Collaborative‘s Privacy and Security Advisory Board (PSAB) – a body of nationally recognized higher education, data privacy, and data security experts.