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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

Thousands of Android Apps Track Children, Break Federal Law

By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. April 22, 2018 World Net Daily

Thousands of free Android educational apps available in the Google Play store are tracking children in violation of a major federal data-privacy law, exposing kids to targeted ads and automatic profiling.

The study, “Won’t Somebody Think of the Children,” was published in the scholarly journal, Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies. The researchers say the problems are rampant and parents are provided a privacy analysis of each app, including the popular Google Classroom and Khan Academy.

With almost no public oversight, Google quickly took over America’s classrooms by developing the “free” Google Apps for Education suite (GAFE) and circumventing administrators, opting to go straight to teachers. Rather than pushing specific products, Google convinced educators that students’ college and career prospects could be improved by the creative use of online tools.

Google creates brand loyalty through training and certifying teachers on Google products so they can set up their own consulting services – code for lobbyists – and hawk Google products to their school districts “for the children” at the expense of taxpayers.

Recently 23 parent and watchdog groups filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission alleging that Google has violated child protection laws that regulate online data mining of children under 13.

There is uncertainty over whether all the apps in the study actually fall within the scope of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The popular language-learning app, Duolingo, is included in the study, yet a company spokesman said the product is an online service directed toward a general audience and should not be subject to COPPA. Then why is it under “Designed for Families” in the Google Play store?

Google collects student and family data through services outside the GAFE suite. COPPA requires commercial websites and apps to get parent consent before they collect personal data on children under 13. YouTube, which is owned by Google, collects data from all users but does not require age verification for someone to use its platform search engine or watch videos.

A 2017 survey by Common Sense Media reported that 71 percent of children aged zero to eight watch YouTube on the main platform – possibly without their parents’ knowledge – while only 24 percent watch on the children’s app.

As the student data mining scandal escalates into a fever pitch, parents are questioning with whom the data is being shared and how it is being used.

Is the information shared with other corporations? States? Federal government?

The Fourth Amendment right to privacy is being attacked on multiple levels as students are tracked by numerous players.

Federal mandates and educational technology have enabled a massive privacy invasion of American school children.

Because the federal government is prohibited from collecting personal information on citizens, politicians used a devious methods to skirt this. Under a federal mandate all 50 states set up State Longitudinal Data Systems, or SLDS, utilizing the grant program authorized in 2002 for the storage and sharing of non-academic data on students and their families. Hundreds of data points are collected from the pre-kindergarten period all the way through the workforce. In time the federal government will have personal data on all citizens from cradle to grave.

States that applied for funding under the 2009 Race to the Top during the Obama administration, were required to collect personal student information including hair and eye color, weight, height, blood type, dental status, and behavioral data.

Why does the federal government want this data? What will be done with information on behavioral data?

Mining of student of data is mandated in the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which places the collection of non-academic data on steroids with the incorporation of factors beyond standardized test scores into state accountability systems.

ESSA provides for grants to support personalized learning, an edtech buzzword for replacing teachers with an endless stream of digital products that, not only have not improved academic performance, but have produced negative results. Through personalized learning, students are psychologically profiled and computer adaptive programs steer student beliefs, values, and world views leftward.

With so much evidence about the heist of a student’s personally identifiable information in violation of federal laws and the Fourth Amendment right to privacy, why is Congress doing nothing?

Why did they not ask Mark Zuckerberg during his Congressional testimony about the data mining of K-12 students?

But then we already know the federal government has a failing record of protecting student privacy. We need look no further than the OPM scandal and the 2015 Audit of the U.S. Department of Education.

In late 2017 the U.S. House passed, on a voice vote, a bill that opens the door to a massive federal data clearing house to merge information for sharing with various agencies and researchers much like that of China. Despite wide protests by various conservative groups, House members completely ignored the voters. Their rationale? The bill's purpose is to evaluate federal programs to determine which federal programs work and which are a waste of money.

We already know the answer to that, too. Government programs have been dismal failures, yet Congress continues to fund them -- such as Head Start that was funded yet again in the Omnibus Bill. It seems obvious some members of Congress support data collection of citizens and see no problem with the lives of students being an open book for those who can benefit by it.

It's time to drain this data mining swamp and its left wing facilitators.

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