As readers of this blog know, Leonie Haimson is an intrepid activist. Apparently, she neither slumbers nor sleeps (if there is in fact a difference between slumbering and sleeping) when the rights of parents or children are abused.
In this multi-part series, Leonie tells the story of her quest to gain access to New York State Education Department emails and the various entities involved in the authorization of inBloom. That initiative involved public officials, the Gates Foundation, and many others. Its goal was to release personally identifiable information about students without their parent’s consent. The data would be stored in a “cloud” created by Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation (run by Joel Klein), with no guarantees that the data could not be hacked.
In the first entry, Leonie tells how she and allies filed Freedom of Information Law requests (FOIL), in an effort to obtain the emails among the parties that collaborated to bring inBloom to New York. The requests were delayed again and again. One man stood in the way: State Commissioner of Education John King, now the Acting Secretary of Education. On the day after King’s resignation, a large batch of the FOILed emails were released.
In the second entry, Leonie reviews the emails from 2011, when inBloom was in the formative stage.
When my FOIL was finally responded to I received hundreds and hundreds of pages with printed out emails to and from NYSED and the Gates Foundation mostly; offering all-expense trips for various meetings about teacher evaluation, data collection, and other issues, as well as a pile of contracts and agreements. It took weeks just to sort them and start to look through them. Sadly there were no emails from Merryl Tisch’s account, as I had asked for; and no emails from most of the state officials whose communications we had FOILed. But we did find out some juicy details….
Her third entry reviews the highlights of 2012. You might think you were in an episode of Downton Abbey, as you observe the rich and powerful planning how to gather and use the data of New York’s children, without their parents’ permission.
NYSED’s emails to the Gates Foundation about inBloom and Wireless Generation from 2012 are below; highlights include a dinner party at Merryl Tisch’s home, to which Commissioner King invites an array of corporate reform leaders — to the dismay of Joe Scantlebury of the Gates Foundation. Also amusing is their account when I crashed a Gates-sponsored ” SLC Learning Camp” designed to lure software developers into designing products to take advantage of the wealth of personal student data to be gathered and shared by inBloom.
Her fourth entry details the controversy roiling inBloom and its final death throes.
She introduces this last entry:
This post, the final one with excerpts from the emails I FOILed from NYSED, documents the rise and fall of inBloom; through their communications to officials at the Gates Foundation and assorted consultants and allied organizations. inBloom was formally launched as a separate corporation in Feb. 2013 and died in April 2014, after little more than one year of existence. These fourteen months were marked by myriad public relations and political disasters, as the Gates Foundation’s plans for data collection and disclosure experienced national exposure for the first time and fierce parent opposition in the eight inBloom states and districts outside NY.
Once parents in the rest of the country learned through blogs and news articles of the Foundation’s plans to upload onto a data cloud and facilitate the sharing of their children’s most sensitive personal information with for-profit vendors, their protests grew ever more intense, and inBloom’s proponents were powerless to convince them that the benefits outweighed the risks. Though the Gates Foundation had hired a phalanx of communications and PR advisers, they were never able to come up with a convincing rationale for inBloom’s existence, or one that would justify this “data store”, as they called it, that cost them more than $100 million dollars to create.
The Foundation started the 2013 with a plan to promote inBloom through the media and at the large SXSWedu conference, and to expand the number of inBloom “partners” beyond the original nine states and districts that they said were already committed; instead they watched as every one of these nine states and districts withdrew or claimed they had never planned to share data with inBloom in the first place.
The ending is not surprising: The project failed, but everyone involved got promoted.