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

Congress Trashes 4th Amendment: Bill Creates DeFacto National Database 

By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D.  December 2, 2017

Citizens nationwide who support data privacy joined together in opposing the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (FEPA). Despite this, House Leadership caved to the wishes of Big Data and other special interests and ignored the concerns of everyday Americans.

Knowing the public does not want this bill, the House Oversight Committee, chaired by Republican Trey Gowdy, passed the bill on a voice vote. It then moved to the House where rules were suspended and the bill was jammed through on a voice vote without a written record of how each Congressman voted.

Faced with claims about the bill from several conservative groups, the House Majority staff issued a two-page rebuttal prior to the vote in an effort to shut down opposition.

House Claim: FEPA does not create a federal [centralized] data system.

Fact: FEPA is based on the recommendations of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP) to create a “National Secure Data Service” that requires

  • each agency to create an evidence-building plan;

  • the OMB Director to unify the plans across the entire federal government;

  • the creation of a “federal data catalog” and a “national data inventory;” and

  • the recommendation by various councils about increasing the linking and sharing of data with federal agencies, states, and public and private research entities. 

House Claim: FEPA does not authorize new or additional data or data analysis.

Fact: Agency heads are incentivized to expand data collection while agencies receive new sources of data through accessing data held by other agencies. Both public and private organizations can access private data. The OMB Director can add statistical agencies and units and decides whether any data will be exempt from sharing, regardless of whether it's too private or too confidential.

House Claim: FEPA does not overturn an existing student unit record ban, which prohibits the establishment of a database with data on all students.

Fact: FEPA does not overturn the ban -- at this point -- but its extensive data linking/sharing does create a de facto national database. Although the data will remain housed at the collecting agency, it will be shared widely with others. This poses a major security threat to student data held at the U.S. Department of Education and at the states’ longitudinal data systems.

House Claim: FEPA does not repeal the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002 (CIPSEA) but strengthens existing protections for data.

Fact: The new location serves no useful purpose and data protection is not strengthened. The major threat to data privacy and security still exists because of greater access and unlimited sharing.

House Claim: FEPA does not respond to the Commission’s recommendations to repeal any ban on the collection or consolidation of data.

Fact: FEPA requires each agency to create “a list of any challenges” to accessing data, including “any statutory or other restrictions to accessing relevant data.” This mandate is based on the CEP’s recommendation that “Congress and the President should consider repealing current bans and limiting future bans on the collection and use of data for evidence building.” H.R. 2434, which has already been introduced into the House, does remove the ban.

House Claim: FEPA will make better use of existing data.

Fact: Why hasn’t the government already made use of decades of proof about the failure of Head Start, programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or poverty programs? FEPA is a wolf in sheep’s clothing just as the ESEA was.

The bill claims the data will be secure. Really?

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2015 reported that the USDE’s information systems continue to be vulnerable to serious security threats. The USDE has received an “F” on the FITARA scorecard. Of the 97,000 accounts/users with access to the massive data, only 5,000 have undergone a background check to establish security clearance.

In 2017 it was discovered that a huge FAFSA – federal student aid -- data breach had occurred on the IRS website, exposing more than 100,000 citizens to fraud based on their stolen records.

Other federal agencies have had security breaches including the Office of Personnel Management and the ObamaCare website – healthcare.gov.

Why is Big Data pushing for legislation to allow greater access to data?

The USDE is aggressively requiring more data. The Every Student Succeeds Act directs federal dollars for Pay-for-Success schemes as well as providing millions of dollars in grants to schools that shift to education models designed for data collection.

One of the Pay-for-Success schemes attracting big money philanthropists is Social Impact Bonds. Data is king since loan repayment is based on success pre-determined by data. To offer “proof” to investors for a return on investment, tech companies pressure schools for baseline, growth, and value-added data.

The Gates Foundation-funded Data Quality Campaign is dead set to overturn the ban to overturn the ban on a national student database. They are working in tandem with corporate researchers to gain greater access to data under the guise of education research.

Have you wondered why?

  • If FEPA is not a national database, why is it centralizing federal data? How is this any different from China’s famous secret file on each person?

  • Why didn’t conservative House members speak up about the dangers of the bill?

  • Why did Republican Trey Gowdy jam through a voice vote in the Oversight Committee and ignore voters’ anger over the bill?

  • Why were the House rules suspended to allow only a voice vote instead of a roll call vote for a highly controversial bill?

  • Why didn’t conservative Republican House members demand a roll call vote?

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