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

Parents Are Protesting Data Mining of Their Children’s Highly Personal Information
By Carole Hornsby Haynes | March 22, 2017   Texas Insider  Education Views

Across the nation parents are protesting the data mining of their children’s highly personal information. As the collection of educational data on students has increased across the K-12 sector, so has concern about who has access to that data and how to best shield it.  Many lawmakers in dozens of states have stepped forward with bills to protect the privacy and security of sensitive student information.  

Texas legislators, in both the House and Senate, are working on student data privacy bills to be filed during the 85th legislative session.

Today every aspect of a student’s personal life, and that of their families, is being gobbled up by tech companies which have nearly unlimited access via digital devices and textbooks, online resources and classroom apps, and computer adaptive/personalized learning.  With the 2011 gutting of Family Educa-tional Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) by the Obama administration, there is unlimited sharing of student data with literally anyone in the world being able to attain access as long as the disclosing agency uses the correct language for justification. No longer is parental approval needed.

At the U.S. Department of Education hosted conference in 2013, “Datapalooza,” the CEO of one educational technology company boasted that, “We are collecting billions of records of data…pulling data from everywhere…tens of thousands of places.” He said the data will help students develop the “21st century skills” that the government has deemed they will need.  

The National Education Data Model has over 400 data points including psychological evaluations, medical records, religious affiliation, political affiliation, family income, behavioral problems, disciplinary history, career goals, hobbies, addresses, sex of each parent, and bus stop times/locations.  

The U.S. Department of Education has become increasingly aggressive about demanding PII in conjunction with various federal grants especially for those states that refused to adopt Common Core. In addition, the federal government is encouraging widespread sharing of student data within states, such as with departments of labor, corrections, public health, etc.  The thinking is that the State should know everything about a student so that government can better direct his personal life and where he fits into our new State Planned Economy (workforce development) to be exploited as “human capital.”  

When the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was passed in 2015, many activists tried without success to get lawmakers to include data privacy protections or to close the loophole in FERPA.  Therefore, it is up to each state to protect its students.

In response to growing evidence of misuse of student data, data breaches, and student privacy violations, the Software and Information Industry Association together with the Future of Privacy Forum created the Student Privacy Pledge.  Since 2014, more than 300 companies have signed the pledge which applies only to targeted advertising, specifically prohibiting the selling of personal information and creating student profiles for targeted advertising.

Many states have adopted legislation that merely codifies the Student Privacy Pledge about the use, storage, and sharing of student data in targeted advertising.  

Targeted advertising, however, is only the tip of the iceberg of data mining. The real danger is the collection of student Personally Identifiable Information (PII), which identifies an individual or student, in digital learning programs.

All privacy legislation, which contains the same or very similar language, allows an exception for the collection of PII.

“Nothing in this pledge is intended to prohibit the use of student personal information for purposes of adaptive learning or customized education.”    

The definition of PII in privacy statutes and pending bills in other states (including Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Oregon) as well as those bills being drafted in Texas is as follows:

“…including, but not limited to, information in the student’s educational record or email, first and last name, home address, date of birth, telephone number, unique pupil identifier, social security number, financial or insurance account numbers, email address, other information that allow physical or online evaluations, criminal records, medical records, health records, biometric information, disabilities, socioeconomic information, food purchases, political affiliations, religious information, text messages, documents, other student identifiers, search activity, photos, voice recordings, or geo-location information.”

Biometric information, the measurement of physical and behavioral characteristics, is useful for tracking school attendance and food purchases. However biometrics can include DNA; fingerprints; face, hand and ear features; voice recordings; iris scans; gait; typing rhythm; and gestures.

In 2014, Florida became the first state to ban schools from collecting student biometric information: “An agency or institution…may not...collect, obtain, or retain information on the political affiliation, voting history, religious affiliation, or biometric information of a student or a parent or sibling of the student.”

However, nothing bans the use of children’s DNA, fingerprints, heart rate, or iris scans.  Big tech claims such data is needed to build their educational tools. But that is a Big Tech lie.  Their products don’t need biometric information to function.  Alarmingly, they are allowed access to this information without any parental consent.

Is there any reason why Texas cannot stop data mining for “none of your business” information?  Is there any reason why Texas cannot protect its children with a ban both on the collection and the use of this biometric information?

Since Big Government and Big Tech are running rough shed over our lives and those of our children, it is up to parents to put a stop to this data mining madness. It is up to parents to put a stop to government hawks recording every hiccup that Johnny has. This, folks, is America, not the Soviet Union!  The angry backlash by fed up Americans has only begun.

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