Thursday, June 27, 2013

Student Privacy at Risk (1)

     If you haven’t heard of inBloom, Inc. and the student and teacher and parent privacy risks that are being widely discussed across NYS, then it’s time to do some homework. I received a call from an alarmed teacher who asked me what I know about inBloom. As an education blogger, I had written about this issue in an April 30th blog posting.

Risk to Students
     The NYS Commissioner of Education and the Board of Regents have approved the release of personally identifiable student information to inBloom, Inc. to be stored in a data cloud that inBloom is not guaranteeing as secure. NYS is the only Phase I state sharing student data statewide.
What information is inBloom collecting? Student names, grades, test scores, detailed disciplinary and health records, race/ethnicity, economic and disability status.

Risk to Teachers
     Teachers should also be concerned. Confidential information about them has also been approved to be shared – like social security numbers, addresses, whether the teacher was fired or excessed and the reasons for such.

Risk to Parents
     Parents who apply for free or reduced lunches for their children are also at risk of having their income information placed in an insecure location.

What inBloom, Inc. Will Do With Private Information
     Why does “inBloom, Inc. want this information? The company has plans to share data, with district consent (not parental consent), with for-profit companies to help them develop and market ‘learning products.’” Of course, inBloom explains that they will save school districts money and help teachers target the learning needs of their students by collecting the copious amount of information that is being collected about students and their teachers. what risk to student, teacher, parental privacy?

The Public's Right to Know 
     School districts have been encouraged to have public forums about this matter in order to “ensure public engagement” and to keep the public well informed – though I haven’t heard of any going on.

What Can the Public Do?
     Teacher, principal, parent, and community groups are all lobbying the State Education Dept., the Board of Regents, the Assembly, and the Senate to address the student privacy issues inherent in this deal with inBloom, Inc.
     The NYS Assembly just passed a student privacy bill (A7872). I called Sen. Flanagan’s office today (631-361-2154) to urge him, as Education Chair, to pass this Student Privacy bill in the Senate. His secretary told me there are currently no sponsors in the Senate. Maybe the public can weigh in and call Senator Skelos (518-455-3171) and Senator Klein (718-822-2049) and Sen. Flanagan. It’s also time to find out what your school district is doing.

     There will be an upcoming series of articles about student privacy.

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