Leonie Haimson: Video and News from Our Explosive Town Hall Meeting on Student Privacy

There is one thing that I believe should be forcefully said: the inBloom database should be destroyed. Even if the “cloud” were safe, and even if parents are allowed to “opt out”, the database should be opposed. Rarely mentioned is the reported claim that teacher and principal data is likely to be in the database, posing even more concerns.

Inbloom and similar systems are infrastructure for a new system of tracking students connected to the Common Core Standards, and regulating and de-professionalizing educators. These databases render student capacities and dispositions “minable” for the enrichment of corporations. While student data is the basis of profit, students will see none of it! The database is in fact a solution to a problem not faced by those defending public education; the money, human resources and time could easily be better spent.

Of course the bill under consideration should be supported, and all those standing together to oppose the arrangement applauded. But we have direct experience with government and corporate promises to respect our privacy. Re-writing FERPA to make inBloom “legal” indicates where things are headed. The fact that NYSED has already turned over individually identifiable student data to inBloom without any forthright disclosure of the plan, along with Gates/inBloom legal maneuvers to avoid any accountability, should tell us what the ultimate demand in this case must be. Destroy the private database! Gates and company have no right to our students personal information!

Below is an email communique from Lennie Haimson regarding the Town Hall meeting on the inBloom database held Monday evening.

* * * * *

Yesterday we held a Town Hall meeting at Brooklyn Borough Hall about the NYS and NYC plan to share personally identifiable student information with a corporation called inBloom inc. and other third party vendors.

About 150 people showed up, including two Regents (Regent Kathleen Cashin of Brooklyn and Regent Betty Rosa of the Bronx), and two representatives from the NY State Education Department (Dennis Tompkins, Chief of External Affairs and Nicolas Storelli-Castro, Director of Governmental Relations), who listened to the presentations and the passionate objections of parents. Adina Lopatin, Deputy Chief Academic Officer of NYC DOE spoke and answered questions.   I also gave a presentation about inBloom and DOE provided a  FAQ here. Unfortunately, inBloom and the Gates Foundation refused our invitation to attend.

Some of the disturbing revelations from Adina:  The city and state have already shared confidential student data with inBloom.  They don’t know how much they will have to pay for inBloom’s “services” starting in 2015.  If there is a data breach from inBloom (as many people believe is nearly inevitable) the state will be legally and financially liable, since the Gates Foundation has insulated itself and inBloom from responsibility.

If this highly sensitive information leaks out, it could lead to class action suits against the state for many millions of dollars.  Just yesterday, it was reported that LivingSocial suffered a massive breach from a data cloud.  Living Social is partially owned by Amazon, which will host the inBloom data cloud.  Why is NY State — the only inBloom participant currently committed to sharing student data from throughout the state — insisting on gambling with millions of children’s privacy and security along with all these financial risks?  I am left wondering, even more than before.

Here are some newsclips that capture the intense anger expressed by many parents:  Village Voice: NYC Parents Grill Department of Education Over Private Student Data Cloud ; EdSurge: NYC Parents Raise Questions About InBloom;  The Indypendent: How Murdoch, Bill Gates and Big Corporations Are Data Mining Our Schools; WINS radio/CBS: Parents Irate Over NYC DOE Plan To Give Student Data To Nonprofit Organization ; Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Parents eye city plan to give individual student records to private biz 

On the blog is video of Part II of the evening, with passionate statements and questions from the audience. Video of Part I , with introductory remarks from Margaret Kelley of the Brooklyn Borough President’s office, Stephen Boese of the Learning Disabilities Association of NY, a few outbursts from parents, and my presentation and that of Adina’s, are still on the Livestream site

I have also sent follow-up questions to Adina and I will post her answers when I receive them.  Thanks to all of the co-sponsoring organizations, all of you who came and to the Brooklyn Borough President Markowitz for hosting this event.  Now please contact your legislators and urge them to support the Student Privacy bill! 

1 Comment Leonie Haimson: Video and News from Our Explosive Town Hall Meeting on Student Privacy

  1. Paul Smith May 6, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    If parents want to be truly horrified about student privacy, they should take a closer look at how the systems that run a school district are currently integrated.

    The fact of the matter is, whether we’re talking about a library management system, lunch management, transportation, SPED, grade book, learning management system, instructional improvement system, or a phone messaging system, all these systems require timely updates from the central district database. How this is handled today is often very expensive to setup and maintain. A patchwork of methods exist at each district, many of which are not FERPA compliant (not even close).

    How does the idea of sending non-secure student records to an implementation team in Serbia or Pakistan sound? Not as uncommon as you might think. There teams unpack and manually normalize data before manually uploading the data into the receiving system. Updates can take days before a bus driver sees a new student on her roster or a teacher sees a new student in her grade book.

    Note also that the myriad of implementation types is also very expensive for edtech vendors who must pass on the cost to school districts.

    One idea that shows promise as a solution to this long-standing problem is the same sort of tech that’s powers the military, banking & finance and healthcare industries. Education is just now catching up. Build a web API (data bridge) that connects to various types of student information systems (there are nearly 100 in the U.S. alone) and extracts the data via military-grade encryption. It would then stored in a secure location (certainly a LOT more secure than the typical school district’s server room) where it can be made available to subscribing systems that have been given access to the data by the district.

    If parents want to truly opt out of having their children’s’ data shared, they’ve got some work to do. Before they get all worked up over inBloom, they’d better double back and take a hard look at the current setup for moving their kid’s data.

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