Archives for category: Privacy

After a consistent flow of decisions tearing down the wall of separation between church and state, readers have proposed that the U.S. Supreme Court should henceforth be known as the Supreme Christian Court of the United States. Others call it the Supreme Christian Taliban Court.

In every decision involving religion, the Christian Court makes no effort to balance freedom of religion and the Constitutional prohibition against establishment of religion.

This Court agreed that a baker open to the public may refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple because gay marriage violates his religious beliefs.

This Court requires Maine to fund two evangelical schools in Maine that openly discriminates against those who do not share their beliefs. The state is thus compelled to subsidize discrimination that federal and state law forbid.

This Court supports a school coach’s right to pray in public while he is working and influencing students to follow his lead. Will they next support teachers who are moved to pray in their classrooms?

What next, a revival of school prayer?

This Court, in true Taliban style, allows states to revoke women’s reproductive rights, the decision to control their own bodies.

The Court is drunk with its unchecked power. With a certain majority of 5 hard-core extremists, and the likely vote of a powerless Chief Justice, this Court is set to remake American society, to roll back the rights and freedoms that most Americans take for granted.

Do they want to take us back to 1868, as Justice Thomas wrote, when people of color and women could not vote?

Or do they want to transport us to an imaginary world where father knows best, women know their place, Black people quietly acquiesce to indignities, and everyone is forced to pray the same prayers?

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.

Laura Chapman read Andy Hargreaves’ provocative article about the educational technology we will need in the future, and she responded with this comment:

Andy Hargreaves says: “We need to create conditions for technologically enhanced learning that are universal, public and free to those who need it.”

Yes. But that is unlikely to happen in the United States, even if available elsewhere. In our market-based economy, the expression “digital learning,” should be understood as the opportunity for tech companies to learn as much as they wish about the users of their devices and software. The best we seem able to do is offer legislation that attempts to limit exploitation of data being gathered by technologies.

For example, The National Biometric Information Privacy Act, proposed by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Jeff Merkley, is not likely to pass. The Act would require a business to secure prior written consent from individuals before the business could use any of their immutable characteristics captured by facial recognition or any other biometric systems. See https://www.biometricupdate.com/202008/broad-biometric-protections-in-senate-bill-with-slim-prospects

Also dead in the water is S. 1341 (114th Congress): Student Privacy Protection Act, introduced May 15, 2015, read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. This bill was intended to prohibit the use of federal funds for tech-based data gathering enabled by technology. Here is a small sample of the intended prohibitions:
—No federal funds for analysis of facial expressions, EEG brain wave patterns, skin conductance, galvanic skin response, heart-rate variability, pulse, blood volume, posture, and eye-tracking.
—No measures or data about psychological resources, mindsets, learning strategies, effortful control, attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, intrapersonal and interpersonal resources, or any other type of social, emotional, or psychological parameter.
—A special rule exempts data collection required by the Disabilities Education Act.
But there was more.
—No federal funds can be used for video monitoring of classrooms in the school, for any purpose, including for teacher evaluation, without the approval of the local educational agency after a public hearing and the written consent of the teacher and the parents of all students in the classroom. These restrictions apply to outside parties (e.g., researchers) as well.
—No federal funds for computing devices with remote camera surveillance software without the approval of the local educational agency after a public hearing, and for teachers or students without the written consent of the teacher and the parent of each affected student.
—Section 5 of the bill defines PII, personally identifiable information, and prohibited data-gathering that could reveal, without authorization, the identity of a student (e.g., SSNs, student numbers, biometric records), indirect identifiers (e.g., date of birth, place of birth, mother’s maiden name). As far as I know, that bill is the only legislation that has come close to putting some brakes on rampant data-gathering enabled by ed-tech.

It is easy to suppose that edtech will thrive in the midst of our COVID-19 pandemic. Not so fast warns Mark Schneiderman, the senior director of education policy for the Software & Information Industry Association. He claims the ed tech industry is facing downsizing from the pandemic’s crunch on school budgets. He says “Communication and information sharing platforms like Google, Zoom, and SchoolMessenger are among the big ‘winners’” but thousands of software companies may be in trouble. He offers predictions about the market for edtech and repeats talking points about the importance of edtech on behalf of the profit-seekers whom is represents.

Meanwhile the Gates-funded Data Quality Campaign, the major non-profit preoccupied with data-gathering on a large scale claims that data from edtech is necessary for “student success.” It postures about student privacy issues, but this “campaign” is eager to see more data gathering on students and teachers at scale and longitudinally, including results from the Common Core and associated state tests. https://dataqualitycampaign.org/why-education-data/make-data-work-students/

The Data Quality Campaign has just released a new messaging brief with two partners known for promoting the Common Core standards and testing–the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Collaborative for Student Success. The brief tells states how they should measure “student growth” in 2021, given that most states have no 2020 statewide assessment data.”

This brief is an effort to keep statewide testing (and the Common Core) alive through messaging and marketing. The brief cites and exaggerates the importance of three “push surveys” designed to asset that teachers and parents really want so-called “growth scores.” A growth scores is a euphemism for year-to-year gains in test scores. This brief also cites and promotes SAS, the marketers of discredited value-added calculations known as EVASS (Education Value-Added Assessment System). In other words, the drumbeat for terrible policies goes on and from unelected policy shapers who use their non-profit status for lobbying.
https://dataqualitycampaign.org/news/states-can-and-should-measure-student-growth-in-2021/

It is no surprise that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the three organizations claiming credit for this brief. The Gates Foundation has sent the Data Quality Campaign $25.3 million in 15 grants and The Alliance for Excellent Education $27 million in 15 grants. The Collaborative for Student Success is described as “a multi-donor fund” investing in “messaging efforts that build support for high standards, high-quality aligned assessments, and systems of accountability that promote success for all students.” The Collaborative is funded by ExxonMobil and five major foundations, among them the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as detailed by Mercedes Schneider here. https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/gates-is-at-it-again-the-common-core-centered-collaborative-for-student-success/

This is to say that market forces are not just operating in public education but that the wealth of nonprofits is well-organized to push ed-tech.

We are not now, or in the foreseeable future likely to see anything close to “conditions for technologically enhanced learning that are universal, public and free to those who need it.”

Our national and state policies are designed to subsidize profit-seeking from education.

Nancy Flanagan writes here about why she is sticking with Facebook, despite it multiple flaws.

I was on Facebook for a brief time, then quit. Then resumed, then quit again. What I discovered was that when I quit Facebook, my identity remained there, waiting for me to return. I was reminded of King George III in “Hamilton” singing “You’ll Be Back.”

No, I won’t. It’s addictive, true. But anyone who wants to reach me knows how to get in touch. I don’t need another way to waste time. I have too many already. And I don’t want to direct a penny towards Mark Zuckerberg.

What do you think?

Will you stick with Facebook or did you quit? Or did you never sign up?

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.

Today:

On Thu, May 14, 2020, 10:41 AM Leonie Haimson wrote:
For immediate release: May 14, 2020
More information: Fatima Geidi, fatimageidi@gmail.com (646) 281-0449
Leonie Haimson, leoniehaimson@gmail.com; 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.”

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As for tomorrow’s panel, here it is:

WEBINAR Tomorrow! Social & emotional supports for students during Covid19

REGISTER https://mailchi.mp/fordhaminstitute.org/webinar-may-15th-social-emotional-supports-for-students-during-covid-381810?e=87fac149e2

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

Schedule

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

Unbelievable! A second-grade student in Palm Beach County hacked into the school district’s computer system.

What was that nonsense about distance learning being the wave of the future? Ha!

The Palm Beach County School District is in the midst of a massive computer security crisis that draws into question the authenticity of every assignment completed by every student since “distance learning” began, after BocaNewsNow.com learned that an elementary school student hacked the school district’s password system.

We are not revealing the password convention that is used in the school district, but the second grader’s — you are reading that correctly, the second grader’s — hacking resulted in an emergency login change for “live” morning meetings in several elementary schools last week. It did not result — yet — in a district-wide reassignment of student passwords for the School District’s “Portal” which provides access to Google Classroom.

It is unclear if teachers and administrators were aware that the second grader’s hack potentially impacted the entire 176,000 student school district.

Every Palm Beach County School District student is now utilizing “Google Classroom” during “distance learning.” The system is used for email, classroom work assignments, live communication with teachers, and tests. The hack potentially lets any student log into any other student’s Google Classroom account.

Naomi Klein coined the iconic book Shock Doctrine, about the way that the powerful elites use emergencies to expand their power because of the crisis. New Orleans was one of her prime examples of “disaster capitalism,” where the devastation of a giant hurricane created an opportunity to break the teachers union and privatize the public school system.

In this brilliant essay, published in The Intercept, Klein describes the many ways in which the plutocrats of the tech industry are turning the pandemic into a gold mine for themselves and planning a dystopian future for the rest of us.

Please read this provocative and frightening essay, which has numerous links to support her argument.

What she details is not just a threat to our privacy and our institutions but to our democracy and our freedom.

It is no coincidence, she writes, that Governor Andrew Cuomo is enlisting a team of tech billionaires to reimagine the future of the Empire State. They know exactly what they want, and it’s up to us to stop them.

She writes:

It has taken some time to gel, but something resembling a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine is beginning to emerge. Call it the “Screen New Deal.” Far more high-tech than anything we have seen during previous disasters, the future that is being rushed into being as the bodies still pile up treats our past weeks of physical isolation not as a painful necessity to save lives, but as a living laboratory for a permanent — and highly profitable — no-touch future.

Anuja Sonalker, CEO of Steer Tech, a Maryland-based company selling self-parking technology, recently summed up the new virus-personalized pitch. “There has been a distinct warming up to human-less, contactless technology,” she said. “Humans are biohazards, machines are not.”

It’s a future in which our homes are never again exclusively personal spaces but are also, via high-speed digital connectivity, our schools, our doctor’s offices, our gyms, and, if determined by the state, our jails. Of course, for many of us, those same homes were already turning into our never-off workplaces and our primary entertainment venues before the pandemic, and surveillance incarceration “in the community” was already booming. But in the future under hasty construction, all of these trends are poised for a warp-speed acceleration.

This is a future in which, for the privileged, almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming and cloud technology, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone, then screen “shared” on a mediated platform. It’s a future that employs far fewer teachers, doctors, and drivers. It accepts no cash or credit cards (under guise of virus control) and has skeletal mass transit and far less live art. It’s a future that claims to be run on “artificial intelligence” but is actually held together by tens of millions of anonymous workers tucked away in warehouses, data centers, content moderation mills, electronic sweatshops, lithium mines, industrial farms, meat-processing plants, and prisons, where they are left unprotected from disease and hyperexploition. It’s a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable, and data-mineable by unprecedented collaborations between government and tech giants.

If all of this sounds familiar it’s because, pre-Covid, this precise app-driven, gig-fueled future was being sold to us in the name of convenience, frictionlessness, and personalization. But many of us had concerns. About the security, quality, and inequity of telehealth and online classrooms. About driverless cars mowing down pedestrians and drones smashing packages (and people). About location tracking and cash-free commerce obliterating our privacy and entrenching racial and gender discrimination. About unscrupulous social media platforms poisoning our information ecology and our kids’ mental health. About “smart cities” filled with sensors supplanting local government. About the good jobs these technologies wiped out. About the bad jobs they mass produced.

And most of all, we had concerns about the democracy-threatening wealth and power accumulated by a handful of tech companies that are masters of abdication — eschewing all responsibility for the wreckage left behind in the fields they now dominate, whether media, retail, or transportation.

That was the ancient past known as February. Today, a great many of those well-founded concerns are being swept away by a tidal wave of panic, and this warmed-over dystopia is going through a rush-job rebranding. Now, against a harrowing backdrop of mass death, it is being sold to us on the dubious promise that these technologies are the only possible way to pandemic-proof our lives, the indispensable keys to keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Many teachers are using the ZOOM videoconferencing tool for their online classes, but there have been numerous complaints about ZOOM classes being hacked, and intruders interfering with the class or expressing inappropriate comments.

Consequently, the New York City Department of Education is forbidding teachers from using ZOOM.

New York City has banned the video conferencing platform Zoom in city schools weeks after thousands of teachers and students began using it for remote learning.

The education department received reports of issues that impact the security and privacy of the platform during the credentialing process, according to a document shared with principals that was obtained by Chalkbeat. “Based on the DOE’s review of those documented concerns, the DOE will no longer permit the use of Zoom at this time,” the memo said.

Instead, the guidance says, schools should switch to Microsoft Teams, which the education department suggests has similar functionality and is more secure.

The change is likely to cause headaches for schools and families, as the use of Zoom became widespread after the city shuttered school buildings on March 16 and moved over a million students to remote learning a week later.

Not all schools use Zoom, though many have since the platform offers a free version and is relatively simple to set up. Last month, the city’s Panel for Educational Policy met via Zoom, a meeting that included schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and other top officials.

But the platform has also caused problems for educators and has come under fire nationally for a range of security and privacy issues.

In some cases, students have taken to “Zoombombing” online classes, essentially logging into online classes uninvited and hijacking everyone’s screens with inappropriate images or audio. “Zoombombing is no joke. I don’t think we were ready for that,” Pat Finley, a co-principal at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School in Queens, previously said.

Students have also sometimes flooded the platform’s chat function with inappropriate comments, disrupting virtual instruction.

Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James raised concerns about the platform, including whether third parties could secretly access users’ webcams, reports that the company shares data with Facebook, and whether the company was following state requirements about safeguarding student data.

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.

https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/03/26/massive-shift-to-remote-learning-prompts-big.html

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.

Audrey Watters may be our  most articulate critic of tech obsession. I enjoy her regular posts, and her ability to connect birds with events. Open this link to see what I mean. 

She begins every post with a bird and finds a way to connect it to what she is thinking about.

In this post, she begins with:

This week’s Columbidae is the Gallicolumba luzonica — the Luzon Bleeding Heart Dove. The bird, which is endemic to the island of Luzon in the Philippines, is listed as “near threatened” due to habitat loss.

This bird has something to do with the term “bleeding heart liberal.”

She briefly critiques one of the latest proclamations about technology, then links to a piece about the dangers of Ring in the home, which can be hacked. The link refers to a story that circulated widely on CNN and in other major media about a man hacking into a little girl’s bedroom where her parents had installed a Ring for her protection. Scary stuff.