Archives for category: Privacy and Privacy Rights

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe was interviewed by the Washington Post about the Supreme Court. His answers were very informative. He refers to the current Court as “the Thomas court.”

Do you consider the Supreme Court to be in crisis now?

Yes. I have no doubt that the court is at a point that is far more dangerous and damaging to the country than at any other point, probably, since Dred Scott. And, in a way, because we even find Justice [Clarence] Thomas going back and citing Dred Scott favorably in his opinion on firearms, the court is dragging the country back into a terrible, terrible time. So I think that it’s never been in greater danger or more dangerous

You testified against [failed 1987 conservative Supreme Court nominee] Robert Bork a long time ago and alluded to the kind of vision that he would have brought had he been on the Supreme Court. Where do you see the justices now on that spectrum — do you consider them to be similar to Bork?

I think there are five Robert Borks on the court right now.

Do you really?

And they are, in fact, probably to his right — that is, Robert Bork at least seemed to believe in preserving those aspects of free speech that conduced to meaningful democratic self-governance. That is, I didn’t see in Robert Bork the disregard for democracy, writ large, that I see in the current Supreme Court majority led by Clarence Thomas. And it is now surely more the Thomas court than it is the Roberts court.
Bork and the current justices, I think, were pretty much in the same place with respect to privacy. They all thought that Griswold v. Connecticut was wrong. And I think Thomas is much more candid than Alito in saying that he would certainly get rid of the right as a people to decide to use birth control, to use contraceptives, to have sex for purposes other than procreation. I think that it’s clear that they are going in that direction.

Take a case like Loving v. Virginia, which should matter to Clarence Thomas, given that he is himself, obviously, in an interracial marriage. There’s no basis for it in the Bork universe because, in the Bork universe, the original meaning of the Constitution is to be derived by what it looked like in 1868 or so. Racial intermarriage was unthinkable at that time. And neither the due process nor the equal protection bases of Loving or of Obergefell [v. Hodges] fit into the universe that Robert Bork envisioned.
What happened to Robert Bork is that he was more candid than people like Barrett,[Brett] Kavanaugh and Gorsuch and Alito and Thomas about their views. Remember when Thomas testified, he said he hadn’t even discussed Roe v. Wade. He barely knew the name of the case. And that, when he was a justice, he would basically be like a runner who would be stripped down bare and would start afresh and have no preconceptions and no agendas. What utter BS. I mean, I don’t expect anyone to come to a court with a blank slate — an empty mind, an empty heart. People bring experiences and ideas. But at least something of an open mind. These people don’t appear to have an open mind. It’s clear, on the things that are agenda items for them, they know exactly where they’re going to come out. And although they don’t literally lie under oath when being asked by Susan Collins, “Do you think this is precedent?” “Oh, yes. Oh, yes, it’s precedent,” they certainly were misleading. So it does feel like Robert Bork redux. It feels like “Back to the Future.” Except it’s back to a terrible past.

Do you think justices can be or ever were impartial? Is that an ideal that can be attained?

The court has always been quite political. And throughout much of our history, it’s been quite regressive. It is kind of a myth that the Supreme Court has been, you know, the shining city on the hill. It’s only during the very brief period from 1957 to 1969 or so, during the [Earl] Warren years, that the court really performed the function of ensuring one person, one vote, and moving toward racial and gender equality. That was a limited period. The court, for most of its history, has been very much in the thrall of economically and politically powerful groups. It retarded the progress after the Civil War by invalidating the civil rights acts and its invalidation of parts of the Voting Rights Act was fairly typical.

So I don’t have any illusion that the court was ever really neutral, nor do I think one can really define a point of neutrality. The idea that judges could be apolitical doesn’t make sense. But they can at least be fair. They can listen. They can give reasons for what they do and not have points of view that are so closed and preset that you might as well have an algorithm as a group of human beings. And what the current court is doing more than any court in our history that I can think of is simply saying, “It’s so because we say it’s so.” And then pull out things that are so transparently not arguments.

The entire interview is fascinating but too long to copy. I hope you can open it and read it.

For example, when Justice Alito says in the majority opinion in Dobbs: Don’t worry, this will have no implications for contraception; it’s special because it involves potential life. Well, of course, so does contraception involve potential life. And besides, he’s equating a definition with an argument. The underpinnings of his theory are that if you don’t find it written down in the Constitution — or in a history that goes back far enough that he’s citing judges who favored burning women as witches — if you don’t find those roots, it doesn’t exist. Well, if you apply that logic, it wipes out whole swaths of rights. So that’s not what I call a fair argument. That’s simply basically saying, you know, “I’ve got the votes, and so shut up.”

Dahlia Lithwick, writing in Slate, makes three important points about the ongoing controversy over abortion and the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. The anti-abortion movement is not satisfied because they want more than a decision that allows some states to offer abortions.

First, their real goal is a national ban on abortion and a declaration that a fetus has all the rights of a person. They want fetal personhood, in every state.

Second, since the Dobbs’ decision reversing Roe, large numbers of Republicans have expressed their opposition to the decision.

Third, post-Dobbs, expect to read frequent stories about women who died because they were denied an abortion; about women forced to carry dead fetuses for the full term of pregnancy; of children forced to give birth because they are “too immature” to have an abortion.

The only good news in this tragic turn of events is that Republicans who support abortion extremists may face a backlash.

She writes:

It’s being called “Roevember,” a reckoning around women’s rights and fundamental liberties that hasn’t been witnessed since the shaggy-haired days of the ERA. As Jeremy Stahl noted just last week, recent polling seems to show that women are pretty affirmatively pissed off about Roe v. Wade being overturned, and it’s affecting a set of key Senate races, in addition to down-ballot contests around the country. Mark Joseph Stern and I wrote recently that there is virtually no other way to assess the beatdown Kansas voters recently unleashed upon an amendment that would have removed abortion rights from their state constitution than as a repudiation of the Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs intervention, and a promise that even in ruby red states, and even among ruby red voters, only a tiny minority of female voters would endorse forcing teen girls to carry pregnancies to term. After Dobbs came down at the end of June, Kansas reported a 1,038 percent increase in voter registrations that week alone, compared just with the week before.

Yes, even Republican women get abortions. Even conservative women get abortions. Having had the “right” to an abortion and control of their bodies for almost half a century, many women will find it hard to give up their reproductive rights.

Katherine Stewart is an expert on Christian Nationalism who has researched its history, attends their conferences, and writes about their determination to destroy our freedoms. Read her recent book “The Power Worshippers.”

Her latest article in The New York Times reports on their recent dramatic gains.

She writes:

The shape of the Christian nationalist movement in the post-Roe future is coming into view, and it should terrify anyone concerned for the future of constitutional democracy.

The Supreme Court’s decision to rescind the reproductive rights that American women have enjoyed over the past half-century will not lead America’s homegrown religious authoritarians to retire from the culture wars and enjoy a sweet moment of triumph. On the contrary, movement leaders are already preparing for a new and more brutal phase of their assault on individual rights and democratic self-governance. Breaking American democracy isn’t an unintended side effect of Christian nationalism. It is the point of the project.

A good place to gauge the spirit and intentions of the movement that brought us the radical majority on the Supreme Court is the annual Road to Majority Policy Conference. At this year’s event, which took place last month in Nashville, three clear trends were in evidence. First, the rhetoric of violence among movement leaders appeared to have increased significantly from the already alarming levels I had observed in previous years. Second, the theology of dominionism — that is, the belief that “right-thinking” Christians have a biblically derived mandate to take control of all aspects of government and society — is now explicitly embraced. And third, the movement’s key strategists were giddy about the legal arsenal that the Supreme Court had laid at their feet as they anticipated the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

They intend to use that arsenal — together with additional weaponry collected in cases like Carson v. Makin, which requires state funding of religious schools if private, secular schools are also being funded; and Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, which licenses religious proselytizing by public school officials — to prosecute a war on individual rights, not merely in so-called red state legislatures but throughout the nation.

Although metaphors of battle are common enough in political gatherings, this year’s rhetoric appeared more violent, more graphic and more tightly focused on fellow Americans, rather than on geopolitical foes.

“The greatest danger to America is not our enemies from the outside, as powerful as they may be,” said former President Donald Trump, who delivered the keynote address at the event. “The greatest danger to America is the destruction of our nation from the people from within. And you know the people I’m talking about.”

Speakers at the conference vied to outdo one another in their denigration of the people that Mr. Trump was evidently talking about. Democrats, they said, are “evil,” “tyrannical” and “the enemy within,” engaged in “a war against the truth.”

“The backlash is coming,” warned Senator Rick Scott of Florida. “Just mount up and ride to the sounds of the guns, and they are all over this country. It is time to take this country back.”

Citing the fight against Nazi Germany during the Battle of the Bulge, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson of North Carolina said, “We find ourselves in a pitched battle to literally save this nation.” Referencing a passage from Ephesians that Christian nationalists often use to signal their militancy, he added, “I don’t know about you, but I got my pack on, I got my boots on, I got my helmet on, I’ve got on the whole armor.”

It is not a stretch to link this rise in verbal aggression to the disinformation campaign to indoctrinate the Christian nationalist base in the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, along with what we’re learning from the Jan. 6 hearings. The movement is preparing “patriots” for the continuation of the assault on democracy in 2022 and 2024.

The intensification of verbal warfare is connected to shifts in the Christian nationalist movement’s messaging and outreach, which were very much in evidence at the Nashville conference. Seven Mountains Dominionism — the belief that “biblical” Christians should seek to dominate the seven key “mountains” or “molders” of American society, including the government — was once considered a fringe doctrine, even among representatives of the religious right. At last year’s Road to Majority conference, however, there was a breakout session devoted to the topic. This year, there were two sessions, and the once arcane language of the Seven Mountains creed was on multiple speakers’ lips.

The hunger for dominion that appears to motivate the leadership of the movement is the essential context for making sense of its strategy and intentions in the post-Roe world. The end of abortion rights is the beginning of a new and much more personal attack on individual rights.

And indeed it is personal. Much of the rhetoric on the right invokes visions of vigilante justice. This is about “good guys with guns” — or neighbors with good eavesdropping skills — heroically taking on the pernicious behavior of their fellow citizens. Among the principal battlefields will be the fallopian tubes and uteruses of women.

At a breakout session called “Life Is on the Line: What Does the Future of the Pro-Life Movement Look Like From Here?” Chelsey Youman, the Texas state director and national legislative adviser to Human Coalition Action, a Texas-based anti-abortion organization with a national strategic focus, described the connection between vigilantes and abortion rights.

Instead of the state regulating abortion providers, she explained, “You and me as citizens of Texas or this country or wherever we can pass this bill, can instead sue the abortion provider.” Mrs. Youman, as it happens, played a role in promoting the Texas law Senate Bill 8, which passed in May 2021 and allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion. She was exultant over the likely passage of similar laws across the nation. “We have legislation ready to roll out for every single state you live in to protect life regardless of the Supreme Court, regardless of your circuit court.” To be sure, Christian nationalists are also pushing for a federal ban. But the struggle for the present will center on state-level enforcement mechanisms.

Movement leaders have also made it clear that the target of their ongoing offensive is not just in-state abortion providers, but what they call “abortion trafficking” — that is, women crossing state lines to access legal abortions, along with people who provide those women with services or support, like cars and taxis. Mrs. Youman hailed the development of a new “long-arm jurisdiction” bill that offers a mechanism for targeting out-of-state abortion providers. “It creates a wrongful death cause of action,” she said, “so we’re excited about that.”

The National Right to Life Committee’s model legislation for the post-Roe era includes broad criminal enforcement as well as civil enforcement mechanisms. “The model law also reaches well beyond the actual performance of an illegal abortion,” according to text on the organization’s website. It also includes “aiding or abetting an illegal abortion,” targeting people who provide “instructions over the telephone, the internet, or any other medium of communication.”

Mrs. Youman further made clear that Christian nationalists will target the pills used for medication abortions. “Our next big bill is going to make the Heartbeat Act look tame, you guys; they’re going to freak out!” she said. “It’s designed specifically to siphon off these illegal pills.”

Americans who stand outside the movement have consistently underestimated its radicalism. But this movement has been explicitly antidemocratic and anti-American for a long time.

It is also a mistake to imagine that Christian nationalism is a social movement arising from the grassroots and aiming to satisfy the real needs of its base. It isn’t. This is a leader-driven movement. The leaders set the agenda, and their main goals are power and access to public money. They aren’t serving the interests of their base; they are exploiting their base as a means of exploiting the rest of us.

Christian nationalism isn’t a route to the future. Its purpose is to hollow out democracy until nothing is left but a thin cover for rule by a supposedly right-thinking elite, bubble-wrapped in sanctimony and insulated from any real democratic check on its power.

Mercedes Schneider writes in this post about two ministers whom she heard on the radio. One spoke mockingly about separation of church and state. The other spoke about the importance of overcoming division. Mercedes transcribed their speeches. In this post, she focuses on the calming words of the second minister. And she helpfully reminds us of the Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Ninth Amendment undercuts the cramped views of the Supreme Court’s reactionary majority, which has claimed that the rights not listed (“enumerated”) in the Constitution do not exist.

The Ninth Amendment says:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Schneider begins:

I did a double-take on the idea that there is an organized push to enable states to formally declare Christianity as an official state religion. That’s what this is: A far-right attempt to pee on the telephone pole of America, thereby marking it “for Christians only” and further exacerbating division in our country In the Name of Jesus.

I write this as a Christian: Such efforts stoke self-righteous egos and sow dangerous discord.

So, as I was flipping channels on my TV on July 03, 2022, hearing a Southern Baptist pastor mockingly use the phrase “separation of church and state” caught my attention. Sure enough, the point of his sermon was to promote a return to Christianity as the established religion on the state-level.

I recorded his sermon and transcribed it in order to write about it on this blog in a future post (not this one). It is a harsh, hard, self-centered promotion that I have some more work on editing and proofing prior to posting.

The point of this post is to present the words of another pastor, one I heard as I was recovering from the awfulness of transcribing the harsh, self-absorbed guy. This second pastor, Andy Stanley, who founded North Point Ministries in Atlanta, has a refreshingly different message, which he happened to deliver on the same day (July 03, 2022), and which shows that not all Christian pastors with major platforms are buying into the terrible divisiveness of some state-by-state, Christain Nationalism.

Keep reading. You will find this post of great interest.

The respected organization Human Rights Watch issued a damning report about the widespread violation of children’s rights when they were required to use online instruction. Without their knowledge or their parents’ consent, children in many countries were subject to surveillance by online tracking devices embedded in their online programs.

Governments of 49 of the world’s most populous countries harmed children’s rights by endorsing online learning products during Covid-19 school closures without adequately protecting children’s privacy, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report was released simultaneously with publications by media organizations around the world that had early access to the Human Rights Watch findings and engaged in an independent collaborative investigation.

“‘How Dare They Peep into My Private Life?’: Children’s Rights Violations by Governments that Endorsed Online Learning during the Covid-19 Pandemic,” is grounded in technical and policy analysis conducted by Human Rights Watch on 164 education technology (EdTech) products endorsed by 49 countries. It includes an examination of 290 companies found to have collected, processed, or received children’s data since March 2021, and calls on governments to adopt modern child data protection laws to protect children online.

We think our kids are safe in school online. But many of them are being surveilled, and parents have often been kept in the dark. Kids are priceless, not products….

Of the 164 EdTech products reviewed, 146 (89 percent) appeared to engage in data practices that risked or infringed on children’s rights. These products monitored or had the capacity to monitor children, in most cases secretly and without the consent of children or their parents, in many cases harvesting personal data such as who they are, where they are, what they do in the classroom, who their family and friends are, and what kind of device their families could afford for them to use.

Most online learning platforms examined installed tracking technologies that trailed children outside of their virtual classrooms and across the internet, over time. Some invisibly tagged and fingerprinted children in ways that were impossible to avoid or erase – even if children, their parents, and teachers had been aware and had the desire to do so – without destroying the device.

Leonie Haimson is a New York-based education activist who has two passions: reducing class size and protecting student privacy. She is co-founder of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. She writes today in Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” about legislation that threatens the privacy of every college student. Do your part to stop this invasion of privacy by writing your member of Congress. Use the link to contact your representatives.

Haimson writes:

With practically no public notice and no public hearings, the House of Representatives passed the College Transparency Act (CTA) on Feb. 4, 2022, by slipping it into a much larger unrelated bill called the America Competes Act, intended to better position the United States to compete with China. The bill is now slated to go to conference with the Senate…

The CTA would authorize the federal government to create a comprehensive data system that would include the personal information of every student enrolled in college or another higher education institution, and track them through their entire lives, by collecting their names, age, grades, test scores, attendance, race and ethnicity, gender, and economic status, directly from their colleges, along with other highly sensitive information pertaining to their disabilities and/or “status as a confined or incarcerated individual.”

Then, as they move through life, this data would be “matched” with their personal data from the other federal agencies, including the Census Bureau, the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and the Social Security Administration.

No student would be allowed to opt out of this database, and there are no provisions for their data ever to be deleted. Instead, this bill would essentially allow the federal government to create a perpetual surveillance system, vulnerable to breaches and abuse.

This bill would overturn the legal ban on the federal government’s collection of personal student data, otherwise known as a “student unit record” system. The ban was established as a privacy safeguard in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which “prohibits the creation or maintenance of a federal database of personally identifiable student information.”

Yet the federal creation of cradle-to-grave tracking system has been among the top priorities of the Gates Foundation and many of the groups they fund for years. In September 2016, Dan Greenstein, then the director of the foundation’s postsecondary division, told Politico that “[c]losely tracking student-level data remains at the top of the foundation’s list — something the foundation says can be accomplished by working around the federal government, which is banned from tracking students as they move through college,” although he hoped that “collective efforts could also work as a ‘lever’ to push Congress to reconsider the federal ban.”

The report that the foundation put out at the same time, entitled “Postsecondary Success Advocacy Priorities,” showed clearly that their goal was to overturn this prohibition and allow the federal government to directly collect this data for all children, starting at birth. This report has since been scrubbed from their website but is archived on the Wayback Machine here.

It says in part:

GOAL: Support the development of a comprehensive national data infrastructure that enables the secure and consistent collection and reporting of key performance metrics for all students in all institutions [emphasis theirs]. These data are essential for supporting the change needed to close persistent attainment gaps and produce an educated and diverse workforce with career-relevant credentials for the 21st century.

BACKGROUND: In this era of escalating costs and uncertain outcomes, it is important that prospective students, policymakers, and the public have answers to commonsense questions about whether and which colleges offer value: a quality education at an affordable price.

The Gates report included a chart that revealed the overarching and comprehensive nature of the infrastructure it envisioned, in which all “entities” would share their data, including “institutions/providers” before children even entered school, followed by state K-12 systems, colleges, and federal agencies such as the IRS, the Social Security Administration, the Department of Labor, the Department of Defense, etc. Together, this data would be fed into a “National Postsecondary Data System.”

The year before, the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP) had been established by Congress, with the stated goal to consider “whether a federal clearinghouse should be created for government survey and administrative data.” The commission first held hearings in Washington, D.C., on October 21, 2016, where many Gates-funded groups, including New America Foundation, Data Quality Campaign, Education Trust and Young Invincibles, testified in favor of weakening or overturning the ban on the federal collection of personal data.

The organization that I co-chair and co-founded, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, submitted comments to the commission, co-signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Network for Public Education, and other organizations, strongly opposing the overturning of the ban, noting that the potential risks to privacy were enormous from such a huge, centralized, comprehensive system.

According to the commission’s final report:
The Commission heard many substantive comments about the student unit record ban and received more feedback on the issue than on any other single topic within the Commission’s scope. Nearly two-thirds of the comments received in response to the Commission’s Request for Comments raised concerns about student records, with the majority of those comments in opposition to overturning the student unit record ban or otherwise enabling the Federal government to compile records about individual students.
Nevertheless, the commission recommended that the “Congress and the president should consider repealing current bans and limiting future bans on the collection and use of data for evidence building.”

In the meantime, it recommended the creation of a “National Secure Data Service to facilitate access to data for evidence building while ensuring privacy and transparency in how those data are used. … to temporarily link existing data and provide secure access to those data for exclusively statistical purposes in connection with approved projects. The National Secure Data Service will do this without creating a data clearinghouse or warehouse.”

In any case, in May 2017, a bipartisan group of senators, including Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Orrin G. Hatch (who was a Republican lawmaker from Utah at the time), introduced the College Transparency Act, which would overturn the ban on the federal collection of student data, and instead enable the government to track the employment and outcomes of college students throughout their lives.

Similar legislation was soon introduced in the House. As the reporter from Inside Higher Ed pointed out at the time: “While the bill has support from some Democrats and Republicans alike, its passage remains in doubt because opposition to a federal data system remains on the right and the left, based on privacy concerns and philosophical differences over the role of the federal government in higher ed.”

And while the CTA was resubmitted annually, there was little action by Congress during the intervening years. Nevertheless, the Gates Foundation and its allies kept pushing this idea, and last May, in yet another report, they again promoted the idea of a “federal student-level data network (SLDN) that provides disaggregated information about all students’ pathways and post-college outcomes, including employment, earnings, and loan repayment outcomes.”

With little warning, a few weeks ago, the CTA suddenly reappeared, at the last minute folded into the America Competes Act (ACA), although the ACA was an essentially unrelated bill focused on increasing the competitiveness of the United States with China. Even reporters who had in the past written about the CTA were not alerted in advance. The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy heard about it from a D.C. insider two days before its passage, and rushed out a news release the day before, with quotes from several different advocacy groups in opposition, as well as Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.).

As Rep. Bowman pointed out:

We have been down this road before and know how people’s personal data can be abused. Under the Trump Administration we saw this play out in the form of ICE stakeouts in our communities that put people in danger of being deported, separated from their families, and having their lives completely destroyed from one day to the next. The College Transparency Act raises serious concerns about how the data of our students can be used and abused.”

The next day, the bill passed the House by a vote of 238-193, with only a few Democrats opposed, including Bowman and two of his colleagues in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.).
The bill will now go to conference with the Senate. The Senate passed its version of the legislation, known as the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), S.1260, last summer. And though the Senate version did not include the College Transparency Act, “supporters of the bill are very hopeful it will be approved by the conference committee that will review differences between the two bills,” according to a recent article.

On March 14, our student privacy coalition released a letter — co-signed by several other national privacy, consumer, education and parent groups — urging Congress not to pass this bill. As our letter pointed out, the bill would authorize the federal government to not only collect a huge amount of personal information, but also add to this nearly any other kind of data in the future, as long as the Department of Education thought it “necessary to ensure that the postsecondary data system fulfills [its] purposes,” although those purposes are not clearly defined.

And we once again emphasized how the risks of such a surveillance system outweighed the potential benefits by far:

Although the CTA’s supporters maintain that creating this massive federal system holds value for prospective students, history shows clearly how this sort of data collection has been used to target and violate the civil rights of our most vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities. We have also learned that whatever guardrails exist to protect student privacy and anonymity in the current bill could easily be amended in the aftermath of a national crisis, like 9/11, so the CTA data could be used to target current and former students simply because they are a member of a disfavored racial, ethnic, religious, or other vulnerable group. Whatever the value of such a system in terms of promoting accountability for higher education institutions may be, such benefits must be pursued through far less invasive means that do not threaten core American rights and values.

Surely, there are many less intrusive options that could be used to analyze and evaluate higher education outcomes, by using data sampling and use of aggregate data. The existing federal College Scorecard has been enhanced via the collection of aggregate, non-personally identifiable data drawn from colleges, and could be further strengthened by including aggregate data on part-time students, as well as data related to transfer students, contributed by the National Student Clearinghouse, an independent, non-governmental group. This would obviate any need for the federal government to collect and amass personal data from students and follow them throughout their lives.

Such a data system would not only be vulnerable to breaches, but also could have unanticipated negative consequences, by discouraging colleges from accepting the highest-need students to boost their ratings, and/or cause them to discourage their students from entering into careers that have great social value, but lower than average salaries, like teaching.

Please use this link to write your members of Congress and urge them to reject this Orwellian legislation.

The Financial Times reported a major data breach of personally identifiable student data on a website funded by the Gates Foundation. Bill Gates, as we know, is a data aficionado. Several years ago, he created an ill-fated project called InBloom with the intent of gathering the personal data of millions of students. Fortunately it was killed off by parent activists Leonie Haimson and Rachel Stickland, who created the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. The “cloud” is not secure.

The personal details of hundreds of thousands of US students were exposed to hackers after a database was left unsecured by Get Schooled, an education charity set up by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom. Get Schooled was set up a decade ago to help students from low-income, minority and immigrant backgrounds with their college applications and financial aid, and to offer job advice. But it left a database of 125m records, including 930,000 email addresses belonging to children, teenagers and college students, “open and accessible” earlier this year when it overhauled its website, said the UK cyber security company TurgenSec. TurgenSec said the database included names, age, gender and school and graduation details of the individuals. Contact information such as addresses and phone numbers was also accessible.

Here is a surprising combination. State officials today announced that Eva Moskowitz and her charter chain were guilty of violating the state privacy law regarding a student with special needs.

Tomorrow, Eva will participate in a panel about meeting the social and emotional needs of students.


On Thu, May 14, 2020, 10:41 AM Leonie Haimson wrote:
For immediate release: May 14, 2020
More information: Fatima Geidi, (646) 281-0449
Leonie Haimson,; 917-435-9329

Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy found guilty of violating NY State student privacy Law

The Chief Privacy Officer of the NY State Education Department issued a ruling on Tuesday May 12 that Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy had violated Education Law 2d, the state student privacy law, that prohibits the disclosure of personal student information without parental consent except under specific conditions required to provide a student’s education.

In 2015 and thereafter, Success Academy officials published exaggerated details from the education records of Fatima Geidi’s son when he was attending Upper West Success Academy, and shared them with reporters nationwide. They did this under Eva Moskowitz’ direction to retaliate against Ms. Geidi and her son, when they were interviewed on the PBS News Hour in 2015, about his repeated suspensions and the abusive treatment he suffered at the hands of school staff from first through third grade.

Ms. Geidi filed a student privacy complaint to the State Education Department in June of last year. In response to her complaint, Success Academy attorneys made a number of claims, including that the statute of limitations had lapsed, that charter schools were not subject to Education Law 2D, and that school officials have a First Amendment right to speak out about her child’s behavior. All those claims were dismissed in the decision released yesterday by the NYSED Chief Privacy Officer, Temitope Akinyemi.

The State Education Department has now ordered Success Academy to take a number of affirmative steps, including that administrators, staff and teachers must receive annual training in data privacy, security and the federal and state laws on student privacy, that they must develop a data privacy and security policy to be submitted to the State Education Department no later than July 1, 2020, and that after that policy is approved, it must be posted on the charter school’s website and notice be provided to all officers and employees.

As Fatima Geidi said, “I am happy that my son’s rights to privacy and hopefully all students at Success Academy from now on will be protected, and that Eva Moskowitz will be forced to stop using threats of disclosure as a weapon against any parent who dares speak out about the ways in which their children have been abused by her schools. However, I am disappointed that the Chief Privacy Officer did not order Ms. Moskowitz to take out the section of her memoirs, The Education of Eva Moskowitz, that allegedly describes the behavior of my son. I plan to ask my attorney to send a letter to Harper Collins, the book’s publishers, demanding that they delete that section of the book both because it contains lies and has now been found to violate both state and federal privacy law. If they refuse, we will then go to the Attorney General’s office for relief.”

Last year, the US Department of Education also found Ms. Moskowitz and Success Academy guilty of violating FERPA, the federal student privacy law. The official FERPA findings letter to Ms. Moskowitz is here. Yet Ms. Moskowitz launched an appeal of that ruling on similar First Amendment grounds, with the help of Jay Lefkowitz of Kirkland and Ellis to represent her in the appeal. Lefkowitz is the same attorney who negotiated a reduced sentence for Jeffrey Epstein, the notorious child sex abuser, in a controversial plea deal in Palm Beach County in 2007. Though Ms. Geidi has repeatedly asked the U.S. Department of Education about the outcome of this appeal, she has heard nothing in response.

As Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, pointed out: “Fatima’s son is not the only child whose privacy has been violated by Success Academy. Last year, Success shared details from the private education files of Lisa Vasquez’ daughter with reporters from Chalkbeat without her consent, after Ms. Vasquez spoke about how her daughter had been unfairly treated at Success Academy Prospect Heights. The SUNY Charter Institute also noted unspecified violations of FERPA by SAC Cobble Hill, SAC Crown Heights, SAC Fort Greene, SAC Harlem 2, and SAC Harlem 5 during site visits, noted in their Renewal reports. The time for Eva Moskowitz to comply with the law and stop violating the privacy of innocent children whose parents dare to reveal her schools’ cruel policies has long passed.”


As for tomorrow’s panel, here it is:

WEBINAR Tomorrow! Social & emotional supports for students during Covid19


With the coronavirus outbreak disrupting nearly every aspect of our work and learning, educators nationwide have been scrambling to provide remote instruction to their students. But what are they and their schools doing to provide children with social and emotional supports during this tough time? And how do their strategies compare across the private, charter, and traditional public school sectors?

In partnership with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), we will hold a moderated conversation with three outstanding school leaders, all of whom are working hard to attend to their pupils’ (and staff’s) social and emotional needs, while keeping academics moving forward.

Featured Speakers

Michael J. Petrilli, President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute (moderator)

Juan Cabrera, Superintendent, El Paso ISD, Texas

Eva Moskowitz, CEO, Success Academy Schools

Kathleen Porter-Magee, Superintendent, Partnership for Inner-City Education


1:00 p.m.: Introduction to CASEL CARES

1:05 p.m.: Introductory remarks by Michael Petrilli

1:10 p.m.: Moderator Q & A (45 minutes)*

1:55 p.m.: Closing remarks Michael Petrilli and sign off by CASEL

Education Week published an insightful article about the dangers to student privacy during this time when students are relying on tech products to connect to teachers. Read it in full if you have a subscription.

Massive Shift to Remote Learning Prompts Big Data Privacy Concerns

By Mark Lieberman

Schools are confronting a wide range of potential problems around student data privacy as they scramble to put technology tools for virtual instruction in place during extended school building shutdowns.

Teachers have already begun connecting with students using a variety of digital tools, some of which are new to them and their schools and weren’t designed for classroom use—everything from videoconferencing apps like Zoom to digital devices like Chromebooks and learning platforms like Babbel and BrainPop.

An unprecedented number of online interactions between teachers and students from their respective homes introduce new privacy questions that lack easy answers. And at least one state’s governor, aiming to speed up implementation of new remote learning tools, has temporarily waived legal requirements for agreements between school districts and technology companies that typically include student data privacy provisions.

The challenges for schools in staying abreast of privacy concerns have become acute as companies have begun offering temporary free subscriptions to their expensive tech products, said Antonio Romayor Jr., chief technology officer for El Centro Elementary School District in California.

Some teachers in his district have begun bypassing the typical vetting procedures for new tech products by adding the free products directly to their single sign-on platforms for students and teachers to use, he said.

Some of those free products could eventually cost schools and parents money, which means anyone using them should be extra careful about offering credit-card information when signing up, Romayor said. Programs that aren’t vetted in advance also might run afoul of privacy policy. “It’s a constant struggle,” he said.

While the new technological landscape for schools feels unprecedented in many ways, schools still have an obligation to inform parents of how their students’ data is being used, even if the teaching is occurring outside school buildings. Federal laws—such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)—should help guide school leaders in deciding what new technologies to use.

“The rules, the regulations apply whether the student is actually in the classroom physically or is at home being taught through a distance learning framework,” said Linnette Attai, president of the for-profit education company PlayWell and a close observer of student privacy issues.

Student privacy experts are recommending that school districts take a deliberate, rather than frenetic, approach to adopting new technologies, and guard against overinvesting in new tools before being fully aware of how they work and how they could jeopardize students’ data privacy.

Cheri Kiesecker, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Data Privacy, wants parents and schools to minimize as much as possible the amount of student data that’s being collected and sold by tech companies. She felt the same before the COVID-19 outbreak.

In fact, Kiesecker points to a 2018 warning from the FBI noting that the consequences of ed-tech companies collecting too much data on students “could result in social engineering, bullying, tracking, identity theft, or other means for targeting children.” Most U.S. states earned a “C” or lower grade from a 2019 survey of student data privacy protections by Kiesecker’s organization and the Network for Public Education.

As schools rush to put remote learning programs in places, Kiesecker argues that those student data privacy problems could get significantly worse. And that could have long-term consequences for many students. “Data is actually your identity and a form of social currency,” she said.

Statement on New High-Tech School Security Projects

Approved Through Smart Schools Bond Act

For Immediate Release: February 26, 2020

Media contact: Ben Schaefer,, 212-607-3372

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Today Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the approval of $111 million for 133 new Smart Schools Bond Act, including $51.5 million for high-tech security projects like the facial recognition system currently running in the Lockport City School District.

In response, the New York Civil Liberties Union released the following statement from Director of the Education Policy Center, Johanna Miller:

“The amount of funding for high-tech security projects approved today is greater than the amount for classroom tech, pre-k classrooms, and school connectivity projects combined. State funding could be used to transform the education and experiences of students, but instead we’re seeing this money diverted toward invasive surveillance systems that don’t work and make students feel like criminals in school. In the Lockport City School District alone $3 million was used to buy a facial recognition program – at the cost of $550 a student.

The Smart Schools Bond Act lacks the oversight and transparency it needs to improve schools. The state shouldn’t approve any additional applications for high tech security projects until it creates appropriate protections for student privacy.”