As reported by Reuters on March 4th, New York and eight other states are planning to hand over the private, confidential data of NY public schools students to a Gates Foundation-funded corporation (inBloom, inc.) that will share it with for-profit vendors. The student’s data will be vulnerable to misuse, hacking and theft, as the company states that it “cannot guarantee the security of the information stored … or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.”
The database will contain students’ names, addresses, phone numbers, along with test scores, disciplinary and health records, special education and economic status. In some cases it will contain information on students hobbies and career goals. In other words, it’s a treasure trove of data for marketers, advertisers and edu-preneurs of every stripe who are looking to strike it rich in the Big Data gold rush in education. According to Reuters, over $425 million dollars in education-related venture capital deals were transacted in 2012; 84 deals, up from just 15 in 2007.
To make matters worse, the operating system for inBloom is being built by Amplify, the Rupert Murdoch/Joel Klein education for-profit. Murdoch’s News Corporation, the parent company of Amplify, is involved in an ongoing scandal regarding wiretapping and hacking into personal computers, even having gone so far as to have hacked the voice mail of murder victims. Amplify executives openly use terms like ‘mining” student data, and Murdoch has personally spoken in direct terms about getting a piece of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on K-12 education in the US every year. Can parents trust their children’s personal and confidential information to companies of this character? In this free-for-all, information is a commodity for sale to the highest bidder, raising unprecedented privacy issues that officials in New York State have refused to address.
This digital eye-in-the-sky also poses many threats to teachers. The consolidation of test and other data, combined with the junk science of VAM-based evaluations, will make teachers even more vulnerable to digital surveillance, micromanagement, absurd and wasteful mandates, harassment and abuse. Additionally, the data storage is to be integrated with “vetted” content aligned with the corporate-spawned, un-researched and un-piloted Common Core Standards that are being imposed nationally, intensifying the mania for high-stakes tests and further restricting the curriculum and teacher discretion.
Rubbing salt in this wound is the presence of AFT President Randi Weingarten on the Advisory Group of inBloom, inc. That a teacher union leader would be involved in this clear and present danger to student privacy and teacher autonomy is outrageous.
MORE insists that our union immediately withdraw any connection to this dangerous folly, and direct its efforts toward placing vigorous public oversight – with accountability and real penalties for negligence and misuse – of student and teacher data, and that public and elected officials not permit confidential student information to be shared with private corporations without parent consent.