New York Ed Department Faces Lawsuit Over inBloom Student Data Plan

In New York, parents are concerned about privacy of their children in the big data Common Core era — so concerned that they are taking the state’s education official to court to stop the Department from sharing students’ data with a private company.

A group of parents filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education for its plans to allow inBloom, a nonprofit based in Atlanta, to access students’ data. The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Albany, alleges that the department’s plan to transfer 2.3 million students’ names and other vital records to inBloom violates New York privacy laws, writes Chau Lam of Long Island News Day.

The lawsuit, filed by a dozen New York City parents, states that “if the state’s current data collection system is breached, it can be contained to the local district or regional center in which the breach occurred. If inBloom security is breached through inadvertence, negligence or sabotage, the of millions of students will be at risk.”

New York State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said he could not comment on the pending lawsuit.  He, however, reassured concerned parents that students’ personal data are protected under federal law.

Students’ personal records, including test scores, disciplinary records, disabilities and other information, are now kept on state computers. The state education officials plan to transfer mass data to inBloom this fall or winter. The data management company will store and manage the records for public school students in a computerized “cloud” service.

Some parents worried about their children’s privacy and object to turning over sensitive personal information to a nongovernmental agency.

Pamela Verity of Commack, a mother of three, applauded the dozen New York City parents who filed the lawsuit to prevent the data transfer, including information on about 400,000 students on Long Island.

“I think it’s fabulous. I think it’s great that those parents got together and did something,” she said. “I wish we could mobilize parents on Long Island to do the same.”

Verity said she is concerned about a security breach that could potentially hurt her children. She added that children’s information is very important and security can’t be guaranteed. “Once it’s out on the Internet, it’s out there forever. It doesn’t go away.”

According to the lawsuit, New York was one of nine states that had intended to send students’ information to inBloom. Massachusetts has put its data-storage plan on hold and seven other states have dropped them.

The cloud storage plan is supported by $100 million from software billionaire Bill Gates’ family foundation. The state is spending more than $50 million to develop a sign-on portal and related technology.

Jane Lauer Barker of Pitta Giblin in Manhattan, the lead attorney for the New York City parents, said in the lawsuit that private companies and public agencies using cloud-based hosts had been hacked, including Sony and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

A judge denied the parents’ request for a temporary restraining order. The parties are scheduled to return to court December 6th.

InBloom declined to comment on the lawsuit.