Thursday, December 12, 2013

Senator Flanagan's Privacy Bill unacceptable to parents; omits any mention of parental consent or opt out

For immediate release: Thursday, December 12, 2013
For more information contact: Leonie Haimson,; 917-435-9329


Today, after holding public hearings throughout the state, Senator John Flanagan, the chair of Senate Education Department released a report with recommendations on the State’s current education policies and a bill on student privacy, S. 6007-2013.  Unfortunately, the report’s recommendations as written are ambiguous, and his bill is an inadequate response to the furor aroused by the state’s plan to share public schoolchildren’s personal and highly sensitive student data with the corporation called inBloom Inc.

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters said, “In his report, Senator Flanagan calls for an immediate one year ‘delay in launching the full operation of the Education Data Portal,’ though there is no mention of this in his bill. We enthusiastically endorse this proposal if it means a halt to the state uploading any more personal information to the inBloom cloud. Yet the state could interpret this instead as a delay in the full implementation of the data dashboards, which would not prevent the possibility of breaches or the misuse of this highly sensitive information.” 

SED officials have admitted they have already uploaded much personal information to inBloom for the purposes of the “data portal roadshows” and have said they will not delay beyond January 15 the disclosure of student names, along with their grades, test scores, racial and economic status, disabilities, disciplinary records and much else, though there is a lawsuit pending in Albany County Supreme Court where on January 3, parents will ask the court to issue an permanent injunction to stop this from happening.

Haimson pointed out, “The Flanagan bill, S. 6007, is weak and contains fewer restrictions on the disclosure of student information than the Personal Protection Law passed by the New York State legislature in 1984, which remains on the books and is the basis for our lawsuit.  This new bill would omit any requirement for parental consent or opt out before children’s most sensitive data could be disclosed or re-disclosed to third parties, or shared with for-profit vendors.”

While the bill does allow districts, as opposed to parents, to opt out of having student data uploaded to the NYSED “Educational data portal,” it does not specify whether this means uploaded to the inBloom cloud or to the data dashboard vendors.
Haimson added: “The bill also calls for a privacy officer to be appointed by the State Commissioner, who would develop a “Parent Bill of Rights.”  Yet there is little reason to believe that any such document would contain requirements for parental consent, given the current Commissioner’s disdain for parents and his insistence that he alone should be able to control who receives children’s most personal data.”

Karen Sprowal, a NYC parent of a special needs child and a plaintiff on the lawsuit, says:  “Eight out of the nine inBloom states have now listened to parents and severed all ties with inBloom or put their data sharing plans on hold. In contrast, Commissioner King insists on going ahead in the face of huge opposition from parents, school board members, Superintendents, and elected officials from both parties. All these people recognize the need to protect our children from the devastating harm that would come to them if this personal information leaked out.  In contrast to the two bills already filed in the NY Senate, S5930 by Senator Martins and S5932  by Senator Robach, which both passed by the Assembly last session with bipartisan support, this new bill would not stop the state sharing information with inBloom and would provide penalties only after breaches did occur.  The damage would already be done to my son and other children. It is imperative that parental consent should be included in this bill.  Without this fundamental right, the bill has no teeth and will not save our children from our worst fears.”

Mona Davids, President of NYC Parents Union and a parent plaintiff in the lawsuit said:  “Yesterday, the NY State School Board Associations released a survey showing that 75% of school board members say that districts should have the right to opt out of inBloom, and an even large number, 78% say that parents should have that right. If you polled parents throughout the state who are outraged at this plan, I’m sure you could get even higher numbers.  It is every parent’s ethical duty and inherent right to be able to decide who sees their children’s most sensitive data – which if breached or misused could severely damage their futures for the rest of their lives.  That Senator Flanagan refuses to acknowledge that right in his bill is an insult to all parents, and suggests that he has not taken our concerns seriously.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Penalties for "breeches" of security or improper use of data can just be passed along as another cost of doing business (if they get caught and if anyone does anything about it.)