Privacy Issues and Your Child's Future

I have a two-fold purpose to this thread. 

One is to continue to provide food for thought about what your child's generation faces in terms of privacy. 

Yes, I know, just as many say "advertising is all around them so who cares if it's in their test materials", I'm sure there are those of you who will shrug.  Whether we like it, think it's just the wave of the future or what, the fact is that things are going to be different for our children. 

Two is to ask for help in trying to gather and organize information on privacy issues around testing.  This is needs to have an alarm sounded and loudly.  That I don't hear it coming from the PTA is even more troubling.  (And actually the national PTA loudly supports Common Core which is where the problem comes from.) 

What's interesting is that state PTAs are sounding the alarm (I'll have to see if I can find out what Washington state PTA is doing).  In Missouri, parents point out, that in 2010, the PTA was up in arms over data gathering for military recruiting and yet no outrage over student personal data being release to federal agencies/private firms.   (FYI, this Missouri website, Missouri Eduction Watchdog, has a link to an opt-out form.)

If you would be willing to help do some research, let me know at

There is a documentary at SIFF called Terms and Conditions May Apply.  I saw the trailer yesterday and it was disturbing.  It shows on May 30th and 31st. 

If you have ever used the internet, email, a smart phone, iTunes, Google, Facebook, or almost any computer program, then odds are you have blindly agreed to a "terms and conditions" agreement. 

Director Cullen Hoback takes a microscope to these labyrinthine contracts of rules and concessions, uncovering an epidemic of nearly invisible data mining, which allows multinational corporations and government agencies nearly unlimited access to our personal information. Conferring with lawyers, consumer advocates, senators, and software engineers, Hoback takes us on what starts as an affable exploration that turns Orwellian as he discovers frightening examples of the slow, voluntary erosion of our privacy. 

A comedian finds a SWAT team at his door after quoting Fight Club on Facebook. A tourist cheekily tweets about a weekend of drinking, and then finds himself detained for suspected terrorist activities. As legislation like the Patriot Act continues to expand the level of surveillance that is allowed, usually under full cooperation of the corporations to whom we willingly share information, is there any hope for the future of privacy? 

This provocative, insightful, and unnerving documentary doesn't have the answers, but will make you think more carefully before clicking "I accept."

As well, there was this piece on 60 Minutes about face recognition that was also fascinating yet worrisome.  


spread the word said…
The most disturbing part of this post (to me) is that there isn't a single comment, while other posts from today have scads of comments.

Do parents really not care?

Do they not understand what's happening?

Do they not understand the long-term effects?

If parents don't step up on this one really quickly, it's going to get waaaay out of control over the next few years. Here's a quote from the Missouri article linked above:

When enrolling or filling out forms during the school year, parents give schools personal information about themselves and their child. A school employee enters the information into the school office computer. No thought is given to this since computers are a good way to store, organize, and manage data. Most parents don’t realize the data doesn’t stay In the school office computer. The computer is networked and shares data with other computers. This information or data once it is entered becomes a part of a district or multi-district database that is uploaded to a state longitudinal data system at least once a month.

These state systems are then used to feed the national systems, like iBloom, which in turn sell data access to private organizations.


Not by the districts directly, because they are usually giving it away for "free". So when your district employee/representative adamantly states that the district is not selling your kids' data, they are probably telling the truth, but the reality is almost worse than selling, because there's no cost to the national aggregators of this data. It's them, the upstream organizations that are selling (and giving away) the data for all kinds of purposes. Some research, some commercial, all without your permission or likely knowledge.

This hasn't hit Seattle in a big way yet. The RoadMap project is just the start, and for the moment it only includes a few south-end schools. But this is a tidal wave in the making folks. Everyone needs to get educated on what's happening and spread the word. It will be extremely hard to shut down once it's fully engaged. New York and Massachusetts parents are working hard to stuff the monster back in the box, we need to nip it in the bud here!
Unknown said…
I am in the process of writing a resolution proposal on InBloom for the Washington State PTA. I will submit it by June 15. I have received written support from a number of other PTA members regarding a proposal in this arena.

Several of the nine states that were originally slated to participate in InBloom have currently withdrawn their participation.

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters in New York is currently leading the charge against InBloom.

Locally, I think there should be some sort of organized effort to discuss this issue with members of the school board or perhaps have them discuss the issue with members of the community. Many school communities report that the transmission of their students' data to InBloom occurred without any notice to parents whatsoever or any public discussion. That is just downright scary.
Unknown said…
@spread the word,

I think a lot of people in Seattle were enjoying a 4 day weekend or marking Memorial Day in a way that did not involve blogs. I know I was. I care very deeply about this issue, and I know a lot of other people do, too.
spread the word said…
Mary, thank you for your efforts, I'm glad at least a few people here in Seattle are paying attention.

I'm truly baffled at the lack of response (so far) here, and while the 4 day weekend might have had some effect, I think people just don't understand how big a problem this is and how widespread it is headed. I hope we can, through "viral education", get the word out to everyone before it's too late!

Also, as much as I appreciate Melissa bringing this issue forward, I do think the post itself may have taken a different track, as it's less about the stealing of personal student data (RoadMap/iBloom/etc.) and more about general internet privacy (Facebook/Google/etc.). They are both big issues in today's digitally connected world, but they are different.
Dora said…
While many people in Seattle were applauding the Race to the Top money that we were to receive via the Road Map project, most didn't know that the money was to be spent on data mining our students information.

See CCER, the Road Map Project and student data collection
mirmac1 said…
I think parents can do two things that would help:

Tell the board that a) you did not appreciate the approval of the CCER MOU without any public engagement; and b) has staff done any of the work (that hasn't been done in the past) to see at what co$t will SPS have to backfill the grant once the monies run out.

Tell your elected representatives in Congress that FERPA has been gutted and our children sold down the river. Get them to sponsor legislation to fix this travesty.

Finally, perhaps one of our techie parents could work with the groups that advocate for privacy rights to "out" this more fully and lobby in D.C.
Anonymous said…
Data privacy/ inBloom issue article via the Network for Public Education (

School database loses backers as parents balk over privacy

mirmac1 said…
Reuters' Stephanie Simon, a rock star in my book.
Kathy Barker said…
It has been known for many years that students' information is being sold/given to the Department of Defense. This is done directly through schools, through No Child Left Behind, and through the Joint Advertising Marketing Research and Studies project (
If someone can tell me why this doesn't send huge collective chills through parents, I would love to hear it. Does anyone thing the military is so honorable that these data are not being abused? That the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Defense would partner in rules to ensure military access to students humanitarian, kind, reasons?
dw said…

It would give me chills, but isn't this what we opt out of at the beginning of each year when the huge packets of paperwork come home? Is there any information that's being given out to either DoD or JAMRS if we are diligent about opting out?

What makes the inBloom/Gates/Murdoch/etc. situation even worse is that there's no way to opt out at all. An opt-out provision is what everyone should be advocating really hard for.

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