on Data Mining, Part 2

A couple of weeks ago I provided a list of all the personal information the state of Iowa gathers on students, including those in some private and homeschooled environments. While many believe that such personal information on your child stays within the school district and the Iowa Department of Education, sadly that is not the case. There is a large and growing list of non-education entities that will have access to this information, with only tenuous connections to improving education. While not all entities have a need for every bit of student information gathered, they will have access to all of it, should our government ever determine that they have a “compelling interest”. Below is a list of the current entities that will have access to your child’s data:

  • Iowa Department of Education
  • Pearson
  • Department of Human Services
  • University of Minnesota
  • Tri Tran
  • University of Iowa
  • American Institutes of Research
  • Iowa College Student Aid Commission
  • eScholar
  • Iowa State University
  • SAS
  • Iowa Workforce Development

What we do not know, and the state could not tell me, is if any of these entities have corresponding agreements with the federal government to share data. Unfortunately, this is a very common practice, as the federal government uses it as a means to get around current education law that normally prohibits them from getting this information. In fact, two of the current private entities that are developing tests for the Common Core, SBAC & PARCC, already have agreements in place with the feds to do just that. So once Iowa chooses the one we will use, all our children’s personal data will be accessible by the federal government via these third parties.

While some folks may not have a problem with all this information being gathered on their children well beyond college and held indefinitely, we should have a problem with the fact that neither parents, nor the children once adults, can ever opt out. Without our permission, children’s information is to be captured, stored and accessed by whomever, and whenever, the government or these third parties wish. Given the recent news stories about government data security breaches, as well as federal employees using personal information across agencies to target political opponents, the government has proven itself quite untrustworthy. Every mistake your child ever made in school will be recorded, with no situational context. So too will be if they ever sought psychiatric help or attended school at a correctional facility. So too if they were ever a foster child or homeless. Interpretation of the data will be controlled by the government or third parties, not you. If such information ever got out, could it affect a child’s future potential to get or keep a job? Would it impact them socially or politically as adults? Once in a database for all to see, gone is a child’s ability for a clean slate. And once breached, no law can undo any knowledge it shares.

According to the grant application, the state of Iowa intends to expand this system beyond the current tenuous ties it has to children’s education data. It will eventually include data from entities such as correctional facilities, healthcare, and social services, to be shared with, well, anyone they choose. On pages e39-40 of the 2012 Iowa SLDS grant application, it states the following: “The goal of a longitudinal data system is to provide a generic infrastructure that can be linked across institutional silos so that a potentially unlimited number of questions could be answered with accurate data….Issues and analysis that may be unforeseen today can be queried by efficient data mining if the requisite data was collected in any one of our systems. A P-20W [preschool through work] SLDS also allows for the addition of other agencies and outcomes such as corrections, healthcare, and social services…to create a robust resource for educators, administrators, policy makers, employers and consumers.”

As taxpayers who pay for public education and public programs in the first place, parents should have the final say as to how information on their own children is handled, not the government. They don’t cede their rights to privacy just because they take advantage of the very entities they fund. This data mining will not improve education, and frankly, is none of anyone’s business. Isn’t it about time we kick the nosey neighbor of government out of our homes?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply