By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki
Recently there has been a lot of press around the NSA impinging on American citizens’ Internet and telephone privacy, either purposefully or by mistake. Scott McNealy, former CEO of Sun Microsystems, said over a dozen years ago, with the rise of the Internet, that “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”
Certainly in this age of Facebook, mobile phone tracking, Twitter, and unencrypted email in particular, and of social media, WiFi, big data, the Cloud, viruses and sophisticated hacking tools in general, people are sharing more information about themselves than ever before. Often this is deliberately, and just as frequently, it is inadvertently shared. And this information can be accessed by criminals and others, easier than is generally realized.
(The Cloud in this context just means data being stored on servers outside of an organization’s security firewall. A school district, for example, might be storing data not on their own computer servers, but with a company providing cloud data services. Data is shipped over the Internet from the school district to the cloud service.)
But although we may have less privacy than before, most of us also want to ensure we retain certain key privacy rights, including the right against unreasonable search guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution (for the U.S.), and our right to privacy for personal information such as medical records, social security numbers, credit card numbers and bank account balances. Few people would want such information belonging to them to be made public. In the U.S. HIPAA regulations protect the privacy of medical information, for example.
What about children’s data at school? Typically this data has been held at the school district level. Now children’s test scores are being stored in the Cloud. But not just test scores, also other data about kids relating to their school life is being stored in cloud databases as well. One benefit of placing data in the Cloud is to have possible access to a student’s profile as he or she moves between school districts.
The article linked below reports on inBloom, a nonprofit organization that seeks to provide Big Data analysis services for student test scores, in support of an effort to customize learning to individual students and thereby improve outcomes:
“Non-profit inBloom offers an Internet database service that allows schools to store, track and analyze data on schoolchildren. If you think about it, that information is more than just test scores. It’s whether kids receive free lunch — a telling indicator of the family’s finances. It’s the time a student got into a fight in the schoolyard. And it could be a child’s prescription medication.”
Some parents are concerned, especially since school districts may agree to share information with other districts. “This information … I have no idea what it is, I have no idea who’s using it, I have no idea for what purpose,” said one parent in New York City. Parents in her school district are concerned that they were not given notification before their children’s data began to be loaded into inBloom’s database.
What do you think? How would you feel about your child’s data being loaded into the Cloud, and accumulated over their 12 or 13-year school history? The same data is probably already on your school district’s computers. Does the potential of enhancing personalized learning outweigh the privacy concerns? Please share your thoughts on this issue.