Monday, February 15, 2016

Protecting Your Student's Data (and Your Privacy)

The Department of Education is seeking comment on a new student database.  From Student Privacy Matters:

The U.S. Department of Education intends to create a new student database to house the personally identifiable information of 12,000 students, 500 teachers and 104 principals from 104 unidentified schools in 12 school districts across the country.

The information collected on students will include vast amounts of sensitive data including, but not limited to, standardized test scores, race/ethnicity, individual education plan status, and discipline records in order to facilitate “a rigorous study of the effectiveness of providing data-driven instruction professional development to teachers and principals.” The Department of Education is accepting public comments about its data-collection plans until February 18, 2016.  There was an article about this plan in the Washington Post last month, before the comment period was extended.

Please send in your comments and join the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy in telling the Department of Education that the federal government should never collect personally identifiable student information for any reason and that it should cease plans to develop this database at once.

However, if the Department is intent on moving forward with this study, we believe it should be obligated to:
  • explain why aggregate information can’t be used instead of personally identifiable information;
  • specifically define the personally identifiable elements that will be collected and why each data element is needed;
  • notify parents of student who are involved in the study, or at least reveal which districts are participating, and report the names of any other third parties to whom the personally identifiable information will be disclosed;
  • demand that districts obtain informed consent from parents whose children are participating in the study;
  • demonstrate “significant improvement” in the four key areas identified as a result of a recent Congressional hearing on cybersecurity, or at least report what security protections will be used to safeguard the data;
  • disclose specifically when the data will be deleted or destroyed;
  • explain why the federal government has a need to collect or maintain any personally identifiable data when districts could provide it directly to the researchers for their analysis.
Feel free to simply copy our recommendations, add/subtract, or write your own, and submit them here by Thursday, February 18th.

Other news in data privacy:
A new report from the TRUSTe/National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) Consumer Privacy Index reveals that more Americans are worried about their data privacy than they are about losing their main source of income. Worries over online privacy topped the loss of personal income by 11 percentage points, the report said. 
  •   The Business of Badging and Predicting Children's FutureFind out what a "digital badge" is (Badges are children’s personal behavioral data, shared outside of the school.)
     Take a look at the members listed in this newly created badging collaborative, funded by Lumina in partnership with NGA, Pearson, Broad, Walton, Exxon and Business Round Table, etc. They, along with the folks participating in the October 2015 Close It Summit want to know how your children feel, how your children think, so they can “predict workplace success” and close those pesky workforce gaps, with a corporate endorsed data badge.  WHY? because education is not about teaching children anymore.  Exxon reminds us that schools are job suppliers, children are products.

Taken piecemeal, there's much to recommend about the idea of controlling household devices via voice control or smartphone apps. It's cool having your heater or clothes dryer monitor how much power you're using, or having your fridge alert you that you're low on milk.

Put it all together, though, and you have a steady stream of data about your personal behavior that can be combined with other information to provide marketers, insurers and others with extremely intimate portraits of the life you lead when you think no one's watching.

Tom Kellerman, chief cybersecurity officer of Dallas software firm Trend Micro, offered an even more alarming scenario: A hacker could slip in through a poorly protected smart appliance and gain access to your entire home network.

"They could turn on the webcam in your child's bedroom and watch them," Kellerman said. "They could turn on all cameras and microphones in all your devices and see and hear everything you do, or shut down your entire network. This could lead to extortion demands."

"The manufacturer of the device owns the data," Harrington said. "Most companies store it, either on premises or in cloud solutions. They mine and analyze the data for usage patterns, ways to improve product performance or user experience, and look for ways to monetize the data.

So many more stories to come.


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