New York Parents Angered By Possible Data Privacy Violations

City Council candidate Jelani Mashariki started with a damning message to Department of Education deputy chief academic officer Adina Lopatin and declared an expectation that the message be delivered to Lopatin’s superiors:

“You’re not going to give out my child’s information to a third-party corporation to do whatever it is they want to do,” Makarishi continued over whistles and applause from the audience. “The people are not going to have it and we are going to fight back.”

Sydney Brownstone of the village Voice Blogs reports on the incendiary meeting at Borough Hall town hall Monday night that saw angry parents railing against plans for a controversial data sharing initiative by inBloom Inc. The initiative is funded by roughly $100 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, federal grants, and the Carnegie Corporation, but parents feel that it violates the privacy and security of their children.

Lopatin was able to clarify to the meeting later the Education Data Portal used student demographics and other data (such as absences, suspensions and test scores) and shared that data with school-contracted vendors. While the Department of Education’s position is that this will not violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and reiterated that vendors would need the school’s permission to even access the data, parents are unhappy that there is no provision for the student or family to opt out of inclusion in the data.

They were also sceptical of the DOE’s claim that the data would be secure:

“We live in 2013. Was anyone around last week when the AP was Twitter-hacked?” asked Natasha Capers, a parent and representative from the Alliance for a Quality Education. “It shut down New York City’s Wall Street. We can only imagine what would happen when someone wants this information and knows how to utilize it properly.”

There was uproar when Lopatin confirmed that New York City student data had already been transmitted to inBloom and education liaison Margaret Kelley struggled to control the meeting – even threatening to have it adjourned if Lopatin wasn’t allowed to finish.

“We want to protect the privacy of our children,” Lydia Bellahcene, a mother of five children in the public school system, told last night’s town hall in one of the event’s most impassioned speeches. “It is our God-given right. And I’m not signing that away because I put my daughter in public education.”

Bills A06059 and S04284 are currently winding their way through the state Assembly and Senate, and both will prohibit the release of student information in the absence of explicit parental consent.

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