Facebook’s theft of personal data may not be the worst scenario. For several years, left-leaning Silicon Valley-DC Beltway entities have been purloining the personal information and browsing habits of millions of American schoolchildren.
Facebook, along with other tech elites have been partnering with the U.S. Department of Education and schools nationwide in pursuit of student data. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Pearson, Knewton, and others have been accessing student data. State and federal educational databases provide private companies access to public schoolchildren that perform annual assessments, such as those supported by Common Core “standards,” tests, and aligned texts and curricula.
The Every Student Succeeds Act allows for government collection of personally identifiable information — including data collected on attitudes, values, beliefs, and dispositions — and allows the release of the data to third-party contractors–during the Obama-era access to school data increased despite the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
Another popular initiative, the “school-to-work pipeline” opens access for firms pitching data-gathering initiatives to “align” student learning with “skill sets” and “competencies” desired by corporations.
Facebook recently joined with the Department of Education’s federally sponsored Digital Promise initiative last fall to develop a system of “micro-credentialing” badges for adult students in digital marketing. Facebook is training students to learn “Social Media Marketing Basics,” “Marketing with Facebook Pages,” “Marketing with Facebook Ads” and “Marketing with Instagram.”
The Facebook/Digital Promise partnership is “a wonderful data collection and marketing tool for Facebook and the US Department of Ed, but it is incredibly alarming for students’ privacy and security.”
Facebook also accesses secondary and elementary school-age users through its Messenger Kids app and “whole-child personalized learning” programs funded through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. CZI, a “philanthropic investment company” funded with up to $1 billion in Facebook shares over the next three years, is headed by Jim Shelton, the former program officer at the Gates Foundation and a key Common Core champion in the Obama administration.
“Personalized learning” is an edutech buzz word being floated. Essentially, it is a marketing plan for accessing the classroom and hooking students and teachers on branded software and hardware — iPads, smartboards, computerized portfolios, homework apps, etc. Data on how these objects improve academic performance is not obvious.
Under the guise of customizable assessments, public and private preschools in Colorado experimented with toddlers whose student activities and social/emotional behaviors were tracked using the TS Gold (Teaching Strategies Gold) system — funded with $30 million in Race to the Top subsidies under the Obama administration. Parent Lauren Coker discovered that TS Gold assessors in her son’s Aurora, Colorado, the public preschool had recorded information about his trips to the bathroom, his hand-washing habits and his ability to pull up his pants.
Sunny Flynn, a mom with kids in Jefferson County, Colorado, asked: “What security measures are being used to protect this data? Who exactly has access to this data? How long will the data be stored? What is the proven benefit of a kindergarten teacher putting all of this data into a database?”
Beware of free things. Google has accessed schools through its “free” Google Apps for Education suite. Google is building brand loyalty through its certification program that essentially turns teachers into tax-subsidized lobbyists for the company. GAFE enrollees are “trained” on Google products, earn certification, and then open up consultancy businesses and bill their school districts (i.e., the public) to promote Google’s suite of products to other colleagues.
On Monday, 23 parent and watchdog groups filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission alleging that Google is violating child protection laws by collecting personal data and advertising to those aged under 13.
Over the past four years, Google has admitted “scanning and indexing” student email messages sent using GAFE and data mining student users for commercial gain when they use their accounts for noneducational purposes. Google can collect student/family data to target ads through related services outside the GAFE suite, such as YouTube for Schools, Blogger and Google Plus. These are not covered under the already watered-down federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Under the Obama years, loopholes in federal student and family privacy protections opened data mining to third-party private entities. Those have yet to be closed by the Trump administration.