Software, Data Privacy and FERPA

Web tools, software and mobile apps are essential education technologies.

But how do we try them out or install them on our computers? Most of these involve setting up an account, downloading or installing– and with any service, usually involves agreeing to a contract. Whether it’s a paper contract, a click-through agreement, a EULA (End User License Agreement) or a TOS (Terms of Service), these are legally binding contracts and must follow Minnesota State contract and purchasing policies, regardless if the service is free.

Sarah McGee, State of Minnesota Assistant General Counsel presented a webinar, Data Privacy and FERPA Considerations in Software Contracts.  This webinar discussed the many rules and policies that Minnesota State employees must follow when agreeing to any contract— including software downloaded from app stores or websites.

Some major points of the webinar included:

  • All contracts must be reviewed prior to use
  • click-through agreements and terms need to include proper indemnification clauses
  • if a third party is storing, transmitting or accessing private data, it must meet all FERPA requirements.
  • FERPA applies to personally-identifiable information in education records.  What is an education record?  Any information obtained about a student that could identify them.

For IT and faculty looking for that next “killer app” to use in our classrooms, this presents some hurdles.  And more questions… What does all that fine print mean?  As a state employee, using a state computer, am I legally able to click “agree” to a software company’s terms?    If student records are leaked due to my use of unapproved software, am I personally liable?  For more information, please review the

Software Purchasing Instructions and FAQ’s

Software Licensing and Contract FAQ’s

To access past contract webinars, please visit: https://minnstate.edu/system/ogc/webinars.html