A reader of a post this morning about a letter from John Kline to Arne Duncan asked for more information about the Department of Education’s change of regulations governing FERPA (the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974).

In a post two years ago, I described the lawsuit filed by EPIC (the Electronic Privacy Information Center), which sought to block the changes in federal regulations in 2011 that loosened the protections of student privacy.

Here is an explanation of the lawsuit that appeared on Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog.

The EPIC lawsuit was dismissed in 2013; the Court held that EPIC did not have standing to sue. Its ruling did not deal with the substantive claims.

Parent groups became concerned about FERPA when the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation funded the “Shared Learning Collaborative,” which was renamed inBloom. The plan was to aggregate personally identifiable student data from state data warehouses, store them in a cloud, and make them available for use by others. Whether those others included vendors, researchers, or commercial enterprises is not sure, but parents vehemently opposed the entire plan. The software was developed by Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation (part of Joel Klein’s Amplify division) and the data would be stored in a “cloud” managed by amazon. Parent groups, fearful that their child’s personal data would be mined, testified against the data-sharing agreements in every state and district that agreed to join inBloom, and the effort collapsed. The last state to withdraw was New York, because Commissioner John King supported inBloom. The legislature compelled the state’s withdrawal. When there were no states or districts willing to share student data, inBloom had no reason to exist.

The organization to fight inBloom was led by Leonie Haimson of New York and Rachel Strickland of Colorado, who formed the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. See here and here and here.