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data mining process


As a followup to Cheri’s post yesterday asking Is “Personalized” online learning a form of self incrimination?, it’s not ‘just’ parents asking that particular question.  From eSchool News and Student data mining is a problem, and states are trying to fix it:


What if a child’s performance in a fifth-grade gym class could be used to set the rate for a life insurance policy when they’re 50? What if a computer program advertised interactive tutoring when your child struggled with long division?

Privacy advocates worry these scenarios could become reality as schools increasingly rely on outside companies to collect, manage and analyze the massive amount of data gleaned from standardized tests, transcripts, individual education programs and even cafeteria purchases.


The article doesn’t stop at the question of self-incrimination, it expands it to include data mining and the ability of companies to profit from the information supplied by human capital (your children) for free:


n 2014, 21 states passed 26 student data laws mostly targeted at states and school districts. Many echoed a 2013 Oklahoma law that requires state approval to release student data and mandates that only aggregated data — no data tied to individual students — can be released.

By last year, lawmakers had shifted their focus to third-party companies. They passed 28 student privacy laws, in many cases mirroring a California statute that prohibits service providers from using data to target ads to students, selling student information, and creating student profiles for commercial purposes.

This year nine states — Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia — have added 11 new laws, mostly based on the California standard. A similar proposal is awaiting the signature of Colorado’s governor.

It’s impossible to know how companies could or would use the information they collect, said Joel Reidenberg, a privacy expert and law professor at Fordham University.

“What are they going to do with it? Are they going to use it for experimentation? Analytics?” he said. “Will it wind up 10 years down the road being used in an insurance underwriting decision?”


But parents and opponents of invasive student data mining shouldn’t worry too much (according to Brendan Desetti, director of education policy for the Software and Information Industry Association) as many vendors have signed the Student Privacy Pledge, a promise made by education technology companies to not sell student information, keep the data longer than it is needed by a school system, or disclose student information for advertising.

According to Desetti, concerns are set aside because if companies are found in violation of this voluntary pledge, they can be fined by the Federal Trade Commission.  Parents shouldn’t be too encouraged as the pledge page states: The Pledge is not intended as a comprehensive privacy policy nor to be inclusive of all requirements to achieve compliance with all applicable federal or state laws.  It’s more of a public relations ‘feel good’ measure to assuage privacy concerns but it has no force of privacy law.  There is no mention on what happens to those companies when/if student information is hacked and fines levied on those companies for such a breach.

Reviewing the Student Privacy Pledge and some of the organizations who endorse it,

they put forth the premise that this massive data mining is necessary to educate children and the government must gather data from cradle to grave.  Think of it this way: your school is gathering data on your child without your permission and without a vote by taxpayers to gather this information via the hand held devices/computers now necessary via CCSS mandates.  From the article:

As more teachers turn to these programs and social media as a regular part of their curriculum, states need to safeguard children’s data, said Rachel Anderson with the Data Quality Campaign, a nonprofit focused on how data is used in education. Not because education technology companies are breaking the law, she said, but because regulations need to reflect changes in educationRemember, these changes in education were first put in place via CCSSI mandates and written by non-governmental organizations (CCSSO and NGA).  The premise is flawed and not instituted by a representative political process.

Here are examples of this unconstitutional premise from the pledge page:


student privacy 1

student privacy 2

student privacy 3


Reread Cheri’s post and take her last paragraph to heart and action:

If online providers cannot tell you exactly what data they are collecting, how it is being analyzed, if they cannot allow you to see the data, ensure it is accurate and fair, you may want to remember these words.  “I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate me.”


(Opening graphic accessed from Data Mining)










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