Education Data: Privacy Backlash Begins - InformationWeek

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4/26/2013
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Education Data: Privacy Backlash Begins

Privacy and education experts sound alarms about the movement to capture and analyze more and more student data, even as edu tech companies decry ulterior motives.

A lawsuit, filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center in January against the U.S. Education Department, argues that its 2011 regulations undercut student privacy and parental consent in FERPA. The suit contends the changes effectively allow individuals, and both private and public entities, access to student records.

"EPIC has brought some very strong claims," Reidenberg said. And however the EPIC suit is decided, states will start to enact restrictions on student data collection and sharing, Reidenberg predicted, because FERPA lacks any recourse rights for children or their parents.

"Data breaches are going to happen," he said, noting that even in the heavily regulated financial services industry, which spends substantial amounts of money on information security, "data exposures happen on a regular basis."

Perhaps because of the growing outcry, the Department of Education's chief privacy officer recently issued informal guidance on FERPA and student privacy.

But, if data privacy objections prompt new rules or regulations, will that will stunt the use of data-driven technologies in education? We asked Cameron Evans, Microsoft's national and chief technology officer of U.S. education, for his opinion.

"We do see some uses of student data that need to be addressed and foreclosed, including advertising and marketing uses by cloud service providers," Evans said in an email response. He also wrote: "We can enable data-driven technologies in learning by being fully transparent with schools on how we use the student data we collect, and most importantly, ensuring our schools that this data will never be used for commercial interests unrelated to the IT services we are providing them and their students."

But some critics are skeptical about the stated goals of educational data collection per se, which proponents claim is entirely around improving student performance through technology.

"No, I don't think their goal is to improve education," Kaplan said. "It's to make money."

Likewise, Haimson rejected the heralded benefits of data collection, sharing and analysis in education.

"We're not fooled by the PR spin about a 'tech revolution in learning,'" she said. "There's no proven value to any of this stuff -- no research to show any of this stuff works." The real goal of theses high-tech projects, she declared, is simply to get cut costs by getting rid of teachers and putting larger and larger classes online.

What change might satisfy Haimson?

"Opt-in would satisfy me," she said, referring to parental opt-in to collect or use PII by the school or third parties.

But Reidenberg was dubious an opt-in mechanism would solve the problem. "The complexity and sophistication of the data uses would make it difficult for the average parent to know what they're consenting to," he said.

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Sheila Kaplan
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Sheila Kaplan,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/28/2013 | 4:00:18 PM
re: Education Data: Privacy Backlash Begins
[Reidenberg was dubious an opt-in mechanism would solve the problem. "The complexity and sophistication of the data uses would make it difficult for the average parent to know what they're consenting to," he said.]

I hadn't thought about Reidenberg's stated risks of opting in before. I know opt-in is administratively cumbersome but I hadn't thought about the risks to students & families.

Reidenberg is not putting down average parents. He is cautioning against the tricky wording of consent forms.

Until FERPA rules change again (I'm not saying they will) the inBloom data in question is non-consensually disclosable & parents do not have the legal right (under FERPA) to choose to opt-in or opt-out.

Even if EPIC is successful in their lawsuit against US ED, parents will not be able to opt-in or opt-out of these data disclosures.

Could a state law supersede the federal law regarding inBloom? I don't think so, however NYS could pull out of the pilot. And they should.

I have read about criticism of inBloom, NYC DOE & NYSED, Gates, Klein & Murdoch.

Why don't the press & parents ask Andrew Cuomo why he's keen on inBloom & even more important -- Common Core State Standards, since his ex-education secretary Wakelyn talked up CCSS in NY & then bolted. Wakelyn came from the National Governor's Association, the CCSS copyright holder.

All of the education products developed via inbloom have to be aligned to the CCSS.

A moratorium is needed on CCSS until NY can definitively say they can protect student data & there is recourse on the state level for breaches. CCSS data collection is extensive & inBloom is one part of the CCSS scheme.

Families & students currently have no private right of action & breaches do not have to reported under the FERPA.
welshmx
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welshmx,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/28/2013 | 2:53:10 PM
re: Education Data: Privacy Backlash Begins
Really, this is baloney. Transparency is needed. School hide behing FIRPA, making it impossible or parents and student advocates to track data on dropouts, the ethnic education gap and other areas of public concern. Much of what schools do is outdated, racist, or self-serving. Data keeps us alert and proactive. It is the key to need reform.
Sheila Kaplan
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Sheila Kaplan,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/28/2013 | 1:54:58 PM
re: Education Data: Privacy Backlash Begins
Haimson said:

[If these exact same records were in a doctor's office or hospital, it would be illegal to collect them without parental consent.]

I don't know which exact records Haimson is referring to, however it appears as though doctors & hospitals CAN collect medical information, create medical records & treat minors without parental consent.

http://www.guttmacher.org/stat...

This does not mean I think data mining information about anyone is a good idea. I am commenting on/questioning the validity of Haimson's statement.

I certainly hope once Haimson is aware of the facts in linked document that she becomes outraged about the medical information doctors & health facilities can collect on minors & the procedures they can perform without parental consent.

On the other hand, the medical records are protected by HIPAA (more protective) & not FERPA (less protected).

So maybe the problem is not the collection of data, it's how the data is protected & used. Perhaps that is Haimson's point.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
4/26/2013 | 4:36:34 PM
re: Education Data: Privacy Backlash Begins
Update just received from inBloom PR:

IG«÷m reaching out about your story this morning about inBloom and the backlash from certain privacy activists (Education Data: Privacy Backlash Begins). My colleague Robyn shared some context about how this story came about and why you didnG«÷t contact inBloom for comment, so I understand the background already. I just wanted to share an update on an important point. inBloom this week updated its policy around social security numbers as follows:

inBloom does not and will not accept social security numbers (SSNs) as unique student identifiers. No SSNs are currently in the data store. In the past, our policy has been to prohibit the use of SSNs as unique identifier unless the state or district applied for a waiver to that policy. No such waivers were ever issued, and going forward inBloom will prohibit the use of SSNs under any circumstances and will not offer waivers.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
4/26/2013 | 3:50:49 PM
re: Education Data: Privacy Backlash Begins
I asked Ellis to write this partly to give equal time to those who disagreed with the pro-analytics slant of my column, "Hope Battles Fear Over Student Data Integration" http://www.informationweek.com...
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