7. Privacy Issues
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 forbids disclosure of information about a student’s academic work to third parties without his or her written permission. Such third parties include fellow students, but also parents and family members of the student in question. Instructors should be alert to the existence of this strong and binding restriction, and should take care not to reveal information about students directly or indirectly to third parties. For example, it is actually illegal to leave graded papers in a public hallway, if it permits students to examine faculty evaluation of the work of other students. Any questions about privacy law and disclosure should be referred to the Registrar. For complete information on release of student information visit: http://www.albany.edu/undergraduate_bulletin/release_
In order to provide students with timely information about assignments, papers, and exams, many faculty post the results at a convenient location for students to check their grades. Faculty who use this strategy are advised that it is a violation of FERPA to post exam results or grades in a manner that allows any third party to infer a specific student’s grade. Posting grades by full or partial student identification number, social security number, or name, is prohibited. An acceptable way to comply with the law is to post the grades using a unique identifier known only to the instructor and the student. If this method is chosen, the identifier cannot be composed of personally identifiable information such as birth date, phone number, etc., and the list cannot be in alphabetical or seating order. If all grades in a course are the same, those grades should not be posted.
Posting or distributing student photos violates a student’s rights under FERPA.
The use of student photos by faculty and staff for the limited purposes of student identification on class rosters, class seating, examinations and academic advisement will enrich the classroom and advisement discourse between faculty/staff and students, protect the integrity of the examination process, and overall, enhance the educational experience and retention of students at the University. Student photos should not be shared between and amongst faculty and staff, including, but not limited to academic advisement staff, as the use by an individual faculty or staff member is limited to his/her academic relationship with the student(s)
The Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO), responsible for oversight of FERPA, advises colleges and universities to restrict the practice of publicly posting student personally identifiable information (PII), such as, test grades, assignment grades, final grade lists and student photos (e.g., on the professor’s door or bulletin board or via e-mail).