Effrem Explains Parental Fury to Big Data Regarding Data Mining - The Pulse 2016

June 22, 2016

We continue to marvel at the imperial sense of entitlement and cluelessness of Big Data in thinking both that they deserve sensitive personal student and psychological data without consent and that parents are "afraid" of student research.  Here is an excerpt from Dr. Effrem's latest privacy article posted on The Pulse 2016 in rebuttal to this Brookings Institute attorney titled Memo to Big Data: Parents Are Furious -- Not Fearful -- About Data-Mining:

Perhaps we can clarify reality for Ms. Leong. First, parents are not fearful, they are furious. That's why parent groups joined together to sue the Gates/Murdoch/Carnegie cloud database system called inBloom, successfully bringing down the multi-million-dollar venture. Yes, parents "distrust" the state longitudinal data systems (SLDS) -- because they can't get straight answers about what data is collected and with whom it is shared; because data-mining proponents speak of collecting data on their children's "affective states"; because under current federal law and regulations, access to personally identifiable information (PII) is available to researchers, tech companies, multiple federal agencies, and even "volunteers"; and because recent congressional hearings have exposed the horrifying lack of data security within the U.S. Department of Education [HERE and HERE].

Parents also object that in too many cases, government collects and discloses their children's data without parental consent. They don't appreciate hearing that it's just too much trouble to get their consent or that their right to protect their children's privacy by opting out of data-collection is secondary to having full data sets for "research" (as was discussed in the March House hearing that Leong touts).

Nor is "trust" engendered when data-collection involves psychologically profiling innocent children to provide the "individual and micro data" advocated by Leong, using creepy, Orwellian devices such as those described in a recent op-ed in U.S. News and World Report and rebutted here:
They also measure and monitor things like students' saccadic eye patterns as students learn from visual and textual information sources, data from sensors tracking facial expressions and posture, and more. These data are all fine-grained, reflecting students' learning processes, knowledge, affective states . . . .

Unfortunately for the sake of privacy, Brookings has been doing this kind of social-emotional research for years via the Social Genome Project with its partner the American Institutes of Research (AIR), author of the Smarter Balanced national assessment and Florida's Common Core tests, and which conveniently provided one of the pro-data-mining witnesses for the March House hearing:

Parents are also noticing that even researchers who focus on this type of data-collection admit how subjective the assessment instruments are and disagree on what, if any, would be appropriate uses of the data.

In arguing for more, more, and more data, Ms. Leong also ignores what would seem to be a fundamental problem: The emphasis on technology and "research-based" education that both requires and provides so much data isn't producing results that even remotely justify the loss of privacy, parental rights, and local control.  NAEP test scores, including college-readiness scores, have declined or are stagnant. State test scores are lower when the assessments are given online. Bill Gates himself has admitted that he and technology "really haven't changed [students' academic] outcomes." If what they're doing with the data isn't working, do they seriously believe doing more of it will produce results?

And in any event, government is notorious -- especially in the education arena -- for simply ignoring research that doesn't support its desired outcomes (for example, the many studies showing the ineffectiveness and or harm of current government education and child social programs such as preschool and home visiting [also here], as well as the effectiveness of a two-parent family structure and academic basics like phonics). So why do we need so much research in the first place?

Ms. Leong, the "responsible" thing would be for the federal government to pull out of education altogether, as it has no constitutional authority to be involved. Short of that, it might consider honoring the petition by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) to enforce FERPA as written, and following these recommendations from our review of that March House Hearing on SETRA that include removing the social-emotional language from SETRA and strengthening of FERPA and PPRA to prohibit the collection of this socio-emotional data. That would go further than lectures from Ms. Leong in increasing parents' trust that their children's privacy is safe.

Cross posted at Education Liberty Watch.


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