Sunday, March 3, 2013

Opt out letter for parents who do NOT want their children's confidential info shared with private corporations, and our follow-up questions to NY State

1.      There is an article in today’s Reuters about the Gates-funded database called inBloomInc. that is collecting all the most private, sensitive, and confidential student data from New York and 8 other states, and plans to place it on a vulnerable “data cloud” and make it available to commercial vendors:
In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school - even homework completion.

As the article makes clear, this company plans to share this information “with private companies selling educational products and services.  Entrepreneurs can't wait.”  All this is happening without parental notification or consent. The chief product officer of inBloom Inc., a woman called Sharren Bates, worked for Gates and before that, headed up the ARIS project for DOE, the $100 million boondoggle that made the same sort of ridiculous promises to revolutionize instruction in our schools and was a complete bust.

But this project is a million times more dangerous.   Here is a factsheet and a sample opt-out letter you can send to Commissioner King; please follow up with phone calls to his office if he doesn’t respond within five business days.

Below are  my follow-up questions to the NY State Education Department.  Through an intermediary in the Governor's office, NYSED officials originally agreed to meet with us and respond to our questions, as long as we didn't bring our attorney, Norman Siegel. We agreed to that condition, but then they changed their minds, and said they would respond to written questions within five days.  Then after we sent them the questions, more than a week ago, they reneged again on their promise and said it would take them longer but have not specified when they will respond.

Since most of these questions are purely factual, one would think it would not be so difficult...but  transparency has never been a hallmark of the State Education Department, that is, unless transparency means their intention to share our children's most  confidential information with vendors without our consent.

Questions for SED about sharing of confidential student data

1.  Was NYC student data transmitted to the Gates’ SLC and/or inBloom Inc. already?  

2.  If not, when do you plan to transmit it?

3.  If so, was it transmitted by SED or the NYC DOE?

4. What exact data was already shared with the SLC? 

5. If the data has already been transmitted, what exact information did this include?  

6. Is this the extent of the data to be transmitted or do you intend to share more in the future?

7.  Has any of this data yet been shared with third parities outside of the SLC or inBloom Inc. already?

8. Have you put any limitations on the type of data that you will include in the future? 

9. Was the data of charter school students transmitted, or will it be in the future?  If not, why not?

10. Are you aware that, according to the Gates Foundation, inBloom Inc. will be financially independent by 2016 of philanthropic support, meaning that states, districts or vendors will have to pay for its maintenance and upkeep?  If so, do you intend for this to come out of state taxpayer funds?

11. Are you concerned that this highly sensitive data will be put on a cloud, and that 86% of IT experts say they do not trust clouds to hold their organization’s sensitive data?

12.   Are you aware that inBloom Inc.’s privacy policy says it will use only “reasonable” safeguards rather than state of the art security protections against data breaches, and that they “cannot guarantee the security of the information stored in inBloom or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.”? What specifically is your understanding of what "reasonable safeguards" consist of?

13.   Are you concerned that NYS or NYC may be the subject of multi-million dollar class action suits if and when the data leaks out, especially as you have not given parents the right to consent before sharing their children’s confidential info?

14.  What specific section of FERPA do you rely on in your claim that parental consent is not required?  Please quote and cite the exact section of the law.

15.  Do you consider that NYC or other districts will have to give parental consent before allowing their student data to be shared with third parties outside the SLC/inBloom Inc.?

 16. Are you considering sharing the student and teacher data of other NYS school districts other than NYC, and if not, why not?  [UPDATE: the Reuters article says that NY student data from the entire state is being shared with inBloom Inc.]


Sally R. Merlo said...

I am completely appalled as a teacher and a parent, that NYS is willing to share what is supposed to be "confidential" information about students and teachers to commercial vendors, and private corporations.

The potential for abuse of this information released to vendors is enormous. Further, if the information is "confidential", for what reasons would the NYS have to release such info to for profit companies? It's an invasion of privacy of both students and teachers.

Frankly, I fear for the way this country is going, when corporations can obtain what is regarded as confidential information on people, and use it for their own ends, under the guise of "furthering education".

To our elected officials of NYS: I highly implore all of you to rethink this decision, and NOT to release ANY such information to outside vendor or corporations. This type of information may cause much irreparable harm to the people whose information is released.

Anonymous said...

If I had children, I would immediately remove them from any school participating in this Big Brother nightmare. I would find an out of work PhD to tutor my chldren, rather than let some fascists compile a dossier on them that will last forever.

I have read about these issues on many different websites, and I see the same thing: People haggling with their local schools boards and getting nowhere. This is a national problem that needs a national response. Sadly, the Democrats have all been bought off and they are in favor of privatization too. I never thought I would see something like this in my lifetime, but it can and is happening here.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding New York's Education Data Portal (EDP). I appreciate the time you have taken to share your views.
I'd like to briefly explain what the EDP is, how students will benefit from it, and the steps New York is taking to ensure that student data and student privacy remain secure.
New York's EDP offers educators, students, and their families the ability to view and verify student information and data and provides access to Common Core instructional materials. The EDP will help teachers deliver high quality personalized instruction to their students, give parents a chance to make sure that their children's information is complete and accurate, and enable meaningful conversations between parents and teachers about student progress. The U.S. Congress has strongly supported the development of state longitudinal data systems and their use to help improve student learning and school/district accountability, while ensuring that information is collected and disseminated in a manner that protects individual privacy.
Like you, the Board of Regents and I are very concerned about safeguarding the privacy of all student information and data. The EDP will maintain stringent data security and privacy protections consistent with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other federal and State laws and regulations. Access to student information from the EDP will be controlled by local school districts and will be transmitted securely to teachers, students, and families. Outside vendors will have access only when authorized by the State or school districts for educational purposes, including the EDP itself and other specific school district uses, for example, a contract for the development of report cards or attendance reports. No individual or company will be permitted or allowed to use student information for marketing or re-sale purposes. Re-disclosure to parties not authorized by districts is strictly controlled, and may be done only for educational purposes and under the conditions permitted by FERPA and other applicable State and federal laws.
The State Education Department does not – and will not – collect or share students' social security numbers or photos; assertions to the contrary are wholly misguided and wrong.
In short, all existing data security and privacy protections remain in full effect. InBloom, a non-profit organization partnering with Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Massachusetts, seeks only to make this process more efficient and cost-effective for districts that wish to authorize and provide these tools to educators, students and their families.
inBloom allows for the sharing of costs and services across multiple states rather than each state bearing the costs of a separate system.
inBloom uses the latest security measures to ensure the confidentiality of each state's individual set of data.

The Board of Regents and I are committed to an education reform agenda that has the straight-forward goal of preparing all children for college and careers. The EDP will help achieve that goal. It will help personalize and focus the resources available to educators, students and their families as we transition to the Common Core. And it will do this in a way that ensures the continued protection of student information and data.


Dr. John B. King, Jr.