November 29, 2017

Wyden, Rubio, Warner Introduce “Student Right to Know Before You Go Act” to Empower Students as Consumers and Showcase New Privacy-Protecting Technology

Updated Legislation Allows Students and Families to Make Informed Decisions about How to Spend Their Higher Education Dollars; Protects Student Privacy By Featuring Encrypted, Secure Multi-party Computation

Washington, D.C. – With the cost of college at an all-time high, Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Mark Warner, D-Va., today introduced updated legislation to provide critical information to help students, families, policymakers and taxpayers better understand the costs and outcomes associated with higher education.

The bipartisan “Student Right to Know Before You Go Act” makes data available to prospective college students about schools’ graduation rates, debt levels, how much graduates can expect to earn and other critical education and workforce-related measures of success. Importantly, under the bill, these outcome measures would be available and broken down by individual institution and program of study.

The bill also protects student privacy by requiring the use of privacy-enhancing technologies that encrypt and protect the data that are used to produce this consumer information for students and families.

“Deciding where to go to college shouldn’t be based on guesswork,” Wyden said. “The Know Before You Go Act puts the power back in students’ and families’ hands by giving them the opportunity to make the best possible choices for themselves about where to spend their hard-earned dollars. Our updated, bipartisan bill empowers students and families without forcing tradeoffs that sacrifice individual privacy or data security.”

“A college education is one of the most important investments that many students and families will make in their lifetime,” Rubio said. “Students could benefit from a comprehensive system detailing the projected costs and financial outcomes of the school and area of study the student is planning to pursue – before they take out thousands of dollars in student loans. The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act could help American families make better informed and more cost-effective higher education decisions.”

“For college-bound students, choosing where to enroll and what to study are critical choices. Yet students and their families don’t have access to all the information they need to know whether they are making a smart investment,” Warner said. “Students’ choices of school and program have a host of real-world implications, including on their earning potential, likelihood to graduate, and accumulated student loan debt. This legislation does more to protect student privacy, while making meaningful, contextualized information readily accessible to students as they make key decisions about their futures.”

Currently, prospective students have to make costly and critical decisions about furthering their education based on information that is often inadequate, inaccurate or both. For example, many states try to publish similar information, but the data typically only looks at first-time, full-time students or students who remain in the same state after college. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education makes available to the public a small slice of institutional data through its College Navigator.

The updated bill requires the use of secure multi-party computation (MPC), an advanced encryption technique, to generate statistical data based on student information from colleges and universities as well as loan and income information from government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Education.  The process ensures the protection of the underlying data, so no entity is forced to “give up” sensitive information in a form that is accessible to others.

Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., Scott Peters, D-Calif., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Andre Carson, D-Ind., introduced a companion bill today in the House of Representatives. Wyden, Rubio and Hunter have introduced versions of the bill in every Congress since 2012.

The bill text can be found here. A summary and chart of the bill’s key provisions can be found here. A section-by-section summary of the bill can be found here.

What They’re Saying about the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act of 2017


"This legislation marks a sea change in the continuing conflict between personal privacy and public good. The technology mandated here assures two things: that public policies affecting real people can be decided based on factual data about them, and that the privacy of those facts is provably preserved. In addition, this bill exemplifies financial stewardship in Government: outcome-based policy can be made using data from across relevant agencies, avoiding the need for agencies to duplicate work in gathering and analyzing redundant data.”

- David W. Archer, Ph.D., Principal Research Scientist at Galois, Inc., expert in secure computation and privacy-preserving technology and applications, and privacy advocate

"Insight into the financial benefits of education choices would be invaluable to students trying to navigate the modern marketplace of higher education, allowing them to make much more informed choices.  Privacy-preserving technologies that enable computing on data while encrypted is far and away the best way to provide these insights while also protecting the privacy of US citizens."

- Kurt Rohloff, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Cybersecurity Research Center at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, CTO Duality Technologies, Principal Investigator for multiple DARPA-funded R&D teams and former Senior Scientist at Raytheon BBN Technologies

"We have been researching cryptography for decades, and have pioneered several theoretical tools that aim to resolve the tension between privacy and utility.  Addressing such issues requires a joint effort from several domains, including engineering and legislature, and it is refreshing to see legislation like the Know Before You Go Act take a well-informed approach to accomplish such a lofty goal."

- Rafail Ostrovsky, Ph.D., Professor at UCLA, and Co-Founder, Board Member of Stealth Software Technologies, Inc.


 “Over the last thirty years, the field of secure computation has advanced from purely theoretical to truly practical.  In the last five years, cryptographers have repeatedly heard about critical government use-cases that would benefit from our research, and wondered when the barriers to adoption might be removed.  I am very excited about this legislation; it is the most promising sign I have seen that this important field of research might soon realize its tremendous potential for impact."

- Dov Gordon, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Computer Science, George Mason University


“The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) strongly supports the development of new technologies to protect individual privacy while producing statistics needed for evidence-based policy. ICPSR is engaged in the development of secure multi-party computing in order to facilitate both increased individual privacy and better informed decision-making.  Secure multi-party computing will allow improved measurement and analysis without amassing data in concentrated warehouses or infringing on the rights of individuals and organizations to control data about themselves.”

- Margaret C. Levenstein, Ph.D., Director, Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, Research Professor, Institute for Social Research and School of Information, Adjunct Professor of Business Economics, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan


We are excited to see legislation promoting the use of multi-party computation (MPC) in formulating sound public policy. Boston University's successful collaboration with the City of Boston and the Boston Women's Workforce Council brought this technology into practice to maintain data privacy while gaining insight into an important societal issue -- potential wage inequality in private industry. Such applications demonstrate that MPC can bring enormous value to policymakers at all levels of government.”

- Azer Bestavros, Ph.D., Warren Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Founding Director of the Hariri Institute for Computing at Boston University, on behalf of the team of principal scientists, software engineers, and their collaborators who have developed and deployed accessible, scalable, and production-quality MPC solutions, currently in use in a variety of settings


"Secure multi-party computation, developed by cryptographers over the past 30 years, is a powerful technology that allows complex computations to be carried out on data stored by multiple stakeholders, while ensuring that each party's data is never revealed to anyone else. This legislation takes a significant step forward in using these privacy-preserving techniques to obtain the benefits of using data for better policy decisions while still protecting users' privacy."

- Jonathan Katz, Ph.D., Professor of Computer Science at the University of Maryland, and director of the Maryland Cybersecurity Center


"I welcome this proposed legislation as it will enable systems to be built which allows policy to be based on the evidence in data, without the need to compromise on privacy of the data.”

- Nigel Smart, Ph.D., Professor, Bristol University and Dyadic Security


“The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act is a significant piece of legislation that could have a tremendous impact not only on education but also on technology and privacy. In essence, it shows that the benefits of big data can be obtained without compromising privacy. By integrating state-of-the-art privacy technologies, this bill illustrates what can be achieved when good policy and advanced technology combine."

- Seny Kamara, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Computer Science at Brown University


“The proposed legislation relies upon modern technical advances that have been successfully applied in various sectors of industry, government, and the military.  Bringing this technology into the realm of educational data protections is a logical and natural extension of their current uses.”

- Bradley Malin, Ph.D., Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Biostatistics, & Computer Science, Vanderbilt University and presenter before members of the Congressional Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking


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