InBloom and the need to protect student privacy

InBloom and the need to protect student privacy

Overview for parents, teachers and students

In the last year, since inBloom launched, there has been a grassroots rebellion against the plans of states and districts to disclose personal student data with  this company. 

As of April 2, 2014, all of the nine states originally listed as inBloom’s “partners,” which included New York, have either pulled out completely, put their data sharing plans on indefinite hold or has made data-sharing completely voluntary on the part of districts.  New York was the last state that planned on disclosing a complete statewide student data set with inBloom and via inBloom to third party data dashboard vendors.  The data dictionary or list of personal data that the state was planning to upload into the inBloom “data store” is hereMore information about the data dashboard vendors is here.   

Last year, two bills to protect student privacy were approved by the New York State Assembly:  A.6059A, a comprehensive bill which would put restrictions on the state and districts sharing data with third parties, and prevent any redisclosures of personally identifiable student data without parental consent, as inBloom is designed to do.  Also approved by the Assembly was A.7872, which would allow parents to opt out of any personally identifiable student data shared with vendors.

On April 1, 2014, Governor Cuomo and the New York State legistlature approved the 2014-2015 state budget bill which will prevent the state from sharing personal data with any “Shared Learning infrastructure service provider” or “SLISP” –that is, a company which is storing the information for the purpose of providing it to a data dashboard provider.  For more information on the privacy provisions installed in the budget bill, read our blog post here.

Prior to the state’s severance with inBloom, more than 40 Superintendents across the state of New York gave back Race to the Top funds so that they did not have to sign up for the data dashboards — though the state insisted that their student data would have been shared with inBloom anyway.  Many, including Superintendents David Gamberg of Southhold and Mary-Fox Alter of Pleasantville, wrote letters to inBloom, demanding that their data be deleted,  which the company refused to do. In a recent survey, 75 % of elected school board members  said they opposed the sharing of data with inBloom, and 78% say parents should be allowed to opt out.

See also our timeline and comparison of recent education bills addressing student data privacy for more information. 

NATIONAL OVERVIEW

Created and funded by the Gates and Carnegie Foundations with $100 million, inBloom Inc. was designed to collect a maximum amount of confidential and personally identifiable student and teacher data from school districts and states throughout the country. This information — including student names, addresses, grades, test scores, economic, race, special education status, disciplinary status and more — was to be stored on a data cloud run by Amazon.com, with an operating system by Wireless/Amplify, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. InBloom Inc. planned to share this highly sensitive information with software companies and other for-profit vendors.

The backers of inBloom pitched the project as an effort to help students by providing more personalized learning tools, yet there are no proven benefits to online learning and there are huge risks involved in commercializing this data and storing it on a vulnerable data cloud.  In fact, inBloom’s privacy policy originally stated that it “cannot guarantee the security of the information stored in inBloom or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted,”  though it has now taken that statement off its website.

When it launched, InBloom Inc.  announced that nine states were “partners” in its data-sharing plan. However, after protests from parents and privacy advocates, three of these states have pulled out completely (LA, CO, NC), put their their data-sharing plans on indefinite hold (MA for its one “pilot” district, Everett), make data-sharing completely voluntary on the part of districts (IL) or  now say they never planned to share personal student data in the first place (KY, DE, GA).  New York was the last inBloom participant to share data statewide, involving the personal information of 2.7 million students, and intended to do this without any parental notification or consent.  

Because of the egregious over-reaching of the Gates Foundation and inBloom, parents throughout the country have now been awakened to the myriad threats to student privacy as a result of the weakening of FERPA, the federal legislation to protect student privacy,  the wide variety of data-sharing practices that districts and states are engaged in, the P12  state longitudinal data systems required by federal law, and the huge push for data-collecting, data-sharing and data-mining, all in the  name of “personalized learning.”

  • Need more answers about inBloom? Take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions page about inBloom here.
  • Check out our national and New York State-specific fact sheets on inBloom. Our most recent fact sheet can be found here.
  • Look over our ongoing lists of privacy-related newsclips and events to stay up-to-date.
  • If you’re looking for resources outside of New York State, go to our non-NY links page.
  • For other relevant documents, check out our inBloom updates. And watch video from our explosive April 30th, 2013 Town Hall meeting.
  • Read our inBloom, Inc timeline and for a detailed history of this issue, including our involvement.
  • Examine what kind of data elements inBloom, Inc intended to store.   An excerpt with some of the most sensitive data can be downloaded here, as a pdf. And the longer version can be downloaded here: full data elements.
  • Read Mayor Bill de Blasio’s letter before he was elected to NYSED Superintendent John King and then-NYC Chancellor Dennis Walcott demanding New York to stop sharing students’ private records with corporations and to require parental consent.
  • Sign up for email updates:

 

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