It's Your Choice

Here's what inBloom - the "cloud" student data system that the Gates Foundation is setting up says about students:

Every student is an individual, with unique knowledge, abilities and learning needs. But the technology used in most K-12 schools today can make providing personalized instruction time-consuming and cumbersome for teachers.

Meanwhile, states, districts and educators implementing the Common Core State Standards have set new goals for student learning, and they need effective tools and resources to ensure students meet those goals.

Better, more integrated technology and data analytics can help by painting a more complete picture of student learning and making it easier to find learning materials that match each student’s learning needs. Unfortunately, creating the technology infrastructure to do this is often too expensive for most states and school districts.

That’s where inBloom comes in.

I feel like many parents are out there shrugging.  So what?  My kid is on Facebook, there are cameras everywhere, what's the point in trying to fight back?  If it helps create better and more individual learning, what's the harm?

From The Guardian interview (by Glenn Greenward) with Edward Snowden, the former contractor for the US who leaked top-secret documents about the NSA surveillance program
Snowden: You can't come forward against the world's most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk... But at the same time you have to make a determination about what it is that's important to you. And if living unfreely but comfortably is something you're willing to accept, and I think it many of us are it's the human nature; you can get up everyday, go to work, you can collect your large paycheck for relatively little work against the public interest, and go to sleep at night after watching your shows.
But if you realize that that's the world you helped create and it's gonna get worse with the next generation and the next generation who extend the capabilities of this sort of architecture of oppression, you realize that you might be willing to accept any risk and it doesn't matter what the outcome is so long as the public gets to make their own decisions about how that's applied.
Greenwald: Why should people care about surveillance?
Snowden: Because even if you're not doing anything wrong you're being watched and recorded. And the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude to where it's getting to the point where you don't have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody even by a wrong call. And then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you've ever made, every friend you've ever discussed something with. And attack you on that basis to sort to derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.

What the ACLU says:
With this sensitive data, the government can compile vast dossiers about innocent people. The data sits indefinitely in government databases, and the names of many innocent Americans end up on bloated and inaccurate watch lists that affect whether we can fly on commercial airlines, whether we can renew our passports, whether we are called aside for “secondary screening” at airports and borders, and even whether we can open bank accounts.
Dragnet surveillance undermines the right to privacy and the freedoms of speech, association, and religion.
And they are talking about adults.

Does your child's behavior and personality deserve this kind of scrutiny? 

Does it deserve to be in a database that likely could be shared - at any time and without permission - by the government?

This is what is most important to children in public schools getting a better education?

And, keep in mind, it's only the public school students.  Not Bill Gates' children.  Your children.  


dw said…
A very interesting choice for the title of the post, since when it comes to inBloom, that's the one thing parents do not have -- choice!

We cannot opt out, we cannot refuse to give our kids' personal information to our school districts, and once it's in their system it's completely out of our hands as far as where it ends up and how it gets used. We can opt out of (some) tests, but not all, and all scores from tests that our kids do take will be sent to these data mining companies, along with any and all personal data they can squeeze out of their various sources. As Melissa points out, these are our kids, not adults consenting to having their personal data mined.

I believe (and hope) that the meaning of your title is that we have a choice to sit by idly while this continues, or start complaining vociferously to our lawmakers and school boards; and with that, I absolutely agree. The latest news about our government spy programs that seems to be getting massive media attention is only the tip of the iceberg. Maybe this will finally be the straw that breaks the camel's back and gets people's attention. I hope it doesn't have to get even worse before citizens start fighting back.
seattle citizen said…
The more I think about this, the more it spooks me. You are right on to make a connection between InBloom and the NSA tapping stuff. I was listening to NPR, and an analyst was saying that hundreds of thousands of people have the neccesary clearance to view such materials: How many people will have access to our children's data? How could they possibly guarantee someone won't sneak a flash drive out of the building and sell the data to, say, General Mills or the Gap for marketing purposes?
It is dangerous to store so much of our kids' information centrally; heck, it's dangerous to store it anywhere.
And to what end? So education can be further "rationalized"? So our kids can be further reduced to little bits and bytes of information?
Anonymous said…
A promising documentary named "Terms and Conditions May Apply" ( is slowly making the rounds in the US, and will hopefully be widely released later this summer.

Sounds like a must-see for all of us. WSDWG
Yes, I meant to see that during the film festival but it will get wide release this summer.
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