Group denies selling private student data would hurt students

May 6, 2013 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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In the wake of mounting criticism of a plan to share the private records of New York City public school students with businesses that market educational products, the organization that would be assisting the city’s Department of Education is seeking to clarify its role in the project. 

In an email to a reporter, Alyse Aanestad, a representative of inBloom Inc., denied that the non-profit group would be sharing any information with for-profit businesses to the detriment of students.

Aanstad stated that inBloom Inc. would simply be helping school districts manage student data and that the districts, not inBloom Inc., would decide if that information is to be shared with outsiders.

The non-profit organization “is providing states and districts with tools to make data management easier, but the district retains ownership and control of the data,” Aanestad wrote in her email. 

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“Districts who use inBloom in conjunction with commercial applications and services may choose to disclose certain student information to those third-party providers to power the learning applications they implement in their classrooms.  Those disclosures are controlled by the school district, and third party providers are only allowed to use the selected data for the purposes for which they were contracted by the district,” she wrote.

The organization inBloom has received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Aanestad’s statement comes on the heels of a town hall in Bensonhurst on May 2 in which Schools Chancellor defended the data plan and denied that student privacy would be violated.

“We will maintain student privacy. We are very strict around that. We will never, ever pierce student privacy,” Walcott said in answer to a question at a town hall hosted by the Community Education Council of District 20 (CEC 20).

The question on student privacy at the town hall revealed deep concerns parents have about the plan. Parents at the town hall charged that the student data that would potentially be shared by the DOE with inBloom Inc. would include names, addresses, and such sensitive information as test scores, and disciplinary, health and attendance records.

As reported by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, parents from all over Brooklyn attended a town hall meeting at Borough Hall on April 29 to express their opposition to the plan.

Parents are angered by the fact that the data sharing plan does not give them the chance to opt out, according to CEC 20 President Laurie Windsor. “It’s very troubling.” Windsor told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in a recent interview. Windsor said she envisioned a scenario in which parents of a learning disabled child would be inundated with offers of assistance from for-profit learning centers who got their name and address from private records that were shared by the DOE.

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