November 20, 2013 NYS Assembly Committee Student Privacy Hearing
If you think storing PII in Inbloom is bad, did I mention that PII includes BIOMETRIC records?
You may ask yourself, what is a Biometric record?
Just what you think it means:
“Biometric record,” as used in the
definition of “personally identifiable
information,” means a record of one or
more measurable biological or
behavioral characteristics that can be
used for automated recognition of an
individual. Examples include
fingerprints; retina and iris patterns;
voiceprints; DNA sequence; facial
characteristics; and handwriting.
(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1232g)
Yup, YOUR child’s DNA would be up for grabs via data mining dashboards/RTT in InBloom too! NYSED seems intent on acquiring personal data at all costs.
Moreover, the state Assembly on Wednesday criticized plans to create a statewide website to store students’ test scores and make the information available to parents.
The furor across New York about the state’s use of inBloom, an Atlanta-based technology company, to aggregate student data boiled over at the daylong hearing.
Assembly members spent two hours questioning Education Commissioner John King about potential security breaches in the system. New York City parents are suing to block the data from being released, and districts are dropping out of the program, forsaking federal aid.
“It helps no one if someone knows too much about an individual child in a way that is detrimental to that child and that family,” said Assembly Education Committee chairwoman Cathy Nolan, D-Queens. “We’re very concerned about what we’ve heard.”
King repeatedly stressed that student information would be protected through a secure website, called the EngageNY Portal. He said the data would only be accessible to the parents of each child. The information would be valuable to teachers and students in comparing testing results and providing information about district policies and events, he urged.
It’s expected to go live later this school year.
“It’s not just about data,” King testified. “It is also about ensuring that educators and parents have access to curriculum materials, materials that will shape instruction and the student learning experience.”
King and deputy commissioner Ken Wagner said schools already keep the information and share it with the state Education Department. The new system would allow for one-stop shopping for parents to access their child’s data, including if a family moves, they said.
“These platform services provide access to more options at a lower cost and in a more secure way,” Wagner said.
Lawmakers and critics who testified weren’t buying it. They said any breach of the information could jeopardize a child’s future. They urged the state to allow parents to opt out of the system, and lawmakers have submitted bills that would require parental consent before any data is released to a third-party vendor.
“I think parents ought to have a choice,” said Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, D-Manhattan.
Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, Rockland County, said: “I don’t understand why the name of each child needs to be attached to this data.”
King said the program would be ineffective without being able to identify each student, and the information would be protected through encryption to avoid it being hacked. He said many districts already store student data online, particularly wealthy schools.
Lawmakers directed much of their ire at inBloom, which has faced skepticism across the nation about its ability to protect students’ information. Seven states have pulled out of the program, leaving only New York and Illinois as still working with inBloom.
King said New York has been a leader in student-data gathering and so partnering with inBloom has been more seamless than in other states. He said the information would not used for marketing or data mining.
Lawmakers ripped inBloom for not sending a representative to the hearing, and Nolan said she would pursue legal options to compel the company to testify.
InBloom said in a statement that it couldn’t send anyone to Wednesday’s hearing.
“Due to prior commitments, inBloom informed Assemblyman Nolan that we were unable to send a representative to today’s meeting,” the statement said.
Mary Fox Alter, superintendent in Pleasantville, Westchester County, said the pledges of security from the state and inBloom haven’t convinced parents and educators.
“The concern over inBloom and its massive upload into an Internet cloud cannot be pooh-poohed away by comments that are, ‘We already do it. Your state is better. It has super encryption,'” Alter testified. “They are disrespectful.”
Pleasantville is one of least 28 school districts in the lower Hudson Valley have opted out of the program and, as a result, are forfeiting federal Race to the Top money—the $4 billion federal educational grant program.
In Dutchess County, the Wappingers schools sent a letter to inBloom, urging that no student data will be “processed or maintained” by the company.
The data released to inBloom include student demographic information, parent contact information, suspension records and state assessment scores. The inBloom project is being funded by $100 million nationwide through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corp.
After the 2014-15 school year, which starts July 1, districts and the state would have to pay a per-pupil cost to continue using inBloom’s services, state officials said.