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Thursday, March 28, 2013

The pushback begins: my response to inBloom's attorney



The pushback and spin begins.  See the WaPost oped today, On the question of student privacy by Steve Winnick, the attorney for InBloom, the Gates-funded corporation that is collecting, storing and sharing the confidential student data from nine states,  including NY, MA, LA, CO, IL, NC, GA, DE, and KY.  More states may get added on over time as Gates offers states & districts cash to participate.  (See our fact sheet here.)


In all, Winnick's oped is a highly unconvincing rebuttal to an earlier WaPost article by Valerie Strauss, about the way the Obama administration is being sued for having gutted student privacy protections under FERPA, to encourage highly risky data-sharing projects like inBloom.  Winnick that does not deny that inBloom will disclose sensitive and personally identifiable student information  to for-profit vendors without parental consent.  Indeed, this is what inBloom is designed to achieve.
Though Winnick goes into great length about whether this plan violates the pre- 2008 or pre- 2011 revisions of FERPA, this is immaterial to most parents; it clearly violates all sense of decency and ethical boundaries to provide such confidential and personally identifiable data, including student names, addresses, photographs, emails, phone numbers, along with their grades, test scores,  special education and economic status, and detailed health and disciplinary records, all  provided to companies without notifying their parents or asking for their consent. 
If this plan is truly to "give parents more options to be involved in their children’s education" as the attorney writes, they should at least be told what is happening and be allowed to opt out. 
Moreover, Winnick’s assurances that inBloom "is committed to protecting the privacy and security of student records" contradicts the statement on its privacy policy that "inBloom, Inc cannot guarantee the security of the information stored in inBloom or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.”   Who will take responsibility if and when this occurs?
In the comment section, there are other equally unconvincing comments from inBloom board members Margaret Spellings (former Ed Secretary under George W. Bush) and Michael Horn of Gates-funded Innosight, who praises inBloom’s great push efforts at “unleashing data.”  Innosight describes itself as “a non-profit think tank devoted to applying the theories of disruptive innovation to solve problems in the social sector.”  
Truly disruptive indeed.  This risky venture has the potential to disrupt millions of children’s lives.

For a look at just some of the personally identifiable student and teacher data from nine states that InBloom intends to store on a vulnerable data cloud and make available to vendors without parental consent, see our NYC parent blog here. 

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