Technocratic Corporatocracy Hijacks Public Schools for Profit

Photo Credit: Lexie Flickinger (CC-By-2.0)

Making People Transparent for Profit Through Nontransparent Algorithms

Imagine if everything about you was on a giant billboard and you could see who was buying information about you and making lists. That is exactly what is happening without your knowledge or consent each time you use the Internet. Everything a user does online is tracked and monetized — Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, apps — they all collect your data. A provider of computer-run education programs has admitted that they share the data they gather with 18 “partners.” Invisible analytics, profiling, sharing or selling of data collected without consent or knowledge makes every Internet user vulnerable to manipulation and control, ending personal privacy and sovereignty. 

The process works like this: new data are collected covertly through apps; the collected data is transferred to data brokers who access the new data and combine it with existing data about an individual using nontransparent algorithms. The algorithms create a very detailed profile of individual users; vendors are sold access to the profiles and target individuals based on profile analyses. Google is by far the most used third party analytics tracker and makes 90% of its revenue tracking user searches. In attached bibliography includes multiple examples of how the tech industry not only sells data, but sells data collection programs and devices to measure behaviors and infer emotions and thoughts. 

The documentary, The Creepy Line, explains how tech giants use algorithms to shape behavior and shape thoughts. Google used algorithms to influence voter behavior in the 2016 presidential election In a recently leaked video of a Google company meeting conducted shortly after that election, one employee asked if Google is willing to “invest in grassroots, hyper-local efforts to bring tools and services and understanding of Google products and knowledge so that people can “make informed decisions that are best for themselves.” Google CEO Sundar Pichai responded that Google will ensure its “educational products” reach “segments of the population [they] are not [currently] fully reaching.” Apparently, Google will ensure that Google Chromebooks and the Google manipulated search engine will be standard “education” materials in American schools so that students can make Google informed decisions.

Tracking and “Educating” Children

Schools funded with tax dollars allow the tech industry to collect billions of student data points about every aspect of every student using school issued personal devices by mandating students complete assignments using online tools and apps for classwork and homework on these devices. The data are used to build comprehensive profiles on each student. Every state has a database and students’ personal data can be shared with researchers and companies. Google launched a public relations campaign, Be Internet Awesome, that includes a curriculum and online game for Chromebooks, to promote itself as a “good” company; but a critical analysis of Be Internet Awesome concluded,

. . ., the program’s conceptualization of Internet safety omits key considerations. Specifically, it does not acknowledge the role of companies in keeping data and personal information secure. Instead, its focus on user-centered strategies obscures the degree to which users are often powerless when it comes to controlling how their personal data is used. [It] generally presents Google as impartial and trustworthy, 
which is especially problematic given that the target audience is impressionable youth. 

Transporting human beings without their consent for exploitation is human trafficking. Transporting human beings’ private data without their knowledge or consent is human data trafficking. Transporting children’s private data by collecting it in compulsory schools without parent knowledge or consent to exploit them in the data market is nothing less than institutional child data trafficking.

Failure of Government

Existing federal laws are inadequate for protecting student data privacy. FERPA generally does not apply to online data collection and FERPA was changed by executive rule in 2011, removing parental consent for data collection. FERPA now allows companies (such as Google) to be declared a “school official,” giving them access to student data on par with professionals who have a “need to know” to provide appropriate services to students. HIPPA does not apply to student records. COPPA does not generally apply to schools, and COPPA is rarely enforced even when complaints have been filed, and we know thousands of Android apps are improperly tracking children. There is no federal law regulating companies’ use of online student data.

The FBI recently issued a warning about privacy and security risks of educational technology and the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance that schools should not force parents to consent to third party terms of service. Yet, parents are told they cannot attend the school if they don’t allow their child to have a fill in the blank edtech app or program (e.g., Naviance, or NWEA, or Google Gsuite account). EdTech people say education is the most datamineable industry by far and we know now that students’ social-emotional data is the new goldmine despite the pseudo-science propping up social-emotional learning. The West Virginia teachers strike in Spring 2018 was in part sparked because, among other reasons, teachers were being forced to download Go365, a wellness and rewards app which would track their steps and other health data. Teachers were required to upload a variety of personal health information into the app and saw the program as an invasion of personal privacy

Google’s money wields an enormous amount of influence on U.S. education policy. Under the Obama Administration Google’s lobbyists had essentially unrestricted visits to the White House . A shocking number of White House officials now work for Google or vice versa. The U.S. Department of Education was heavily populated with former employees of organizations associated with Bill Gates, also advocating for computer-administered education. We know tech firms including Google have recently been lobbying the White House for a new federal privacy law on their own terms; Google even provided their own framework for a favorable privacy bill that does not include opt-in consent. It is time for Congress and states to kick the fox out of the henhouse — reject corporatocracy and restore our Constitutional democracy.

Responsibility of Government

U.S. citizens are protected from the government’s invasion of privacy and from property theft. They must also be protected from corporations’ invasion of privacy and theft of their electronically created property. Sovereign citizens cannot be coerced into giving their data or penalized/denied public education services for not consenting to sharing their data. Given that the infrastructure has already been built, Congress must adopt strong privacy laws at least as stringent as the European Union’s global data standards established in its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The FTC should be given rule-making authority and resources to investigate and directly prosecute violations; but by no means should Congress abdicate its responsibility to protect the general welfare of the Americans and allow Silicon Valley to dictate to Congress or the FTC.

FEPA Passes U.S. House By Voice Vote

Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)

The Foundations of Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (FEPA) (H.R. 4174) passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a voice vote on Wednesday afternoon after House rules were suspended in order to pass the bill. The bill was sponsored by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

This is typically done when a bill is considered “non-controversial.”

That isn’t the case with this bill. Two-thirds of the members present must vote in favor. The debate is limited to 40 minutes, and no amendments can be added.

Since it was a voice vote there was no roll call and we don’t know how each Representative voted.

No one spoke in opposition to the bill. You can listen to the “debate” below, as audio was captured by Cheri Kiesecker:

There is a companion bill in the Senate (S. 2046) sponsored by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

Emmett McGroarty, a senior fellow with American Principles Project, made the following statement before the bill’s passage in the House.

Pressured by powerful lobbyists in Washington, Congress is about to take the first steps toward allowing massive data-mining by ‘researchers’ in the name of ‘transparency’ and ‘evidence.’ This will inevitably result in intrusive dossiers on citizens that will vastly expand the power of the already unaccountable administrative state. Citizens have the right to know that the personal data they turn over to the federal government stays with the agency to which it was submitted, and is not shared with other agencies for other purposes. Trampling on individual rights in this manner is bad enough; doing so without even fair hearing and debate is simply unconscionable. Congress must defeat this bill and protect individual freedom. If Congress refuses to do so, President Trump should veto this bill.

See and share this one-pager on the bill about why student privacy advocates have grave concerns about this bill and don’t find it “non-controversial” in the least.

Skipping Down the Bipartisan Path Toward Big Data

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Comedian George Carlin once observed that “the word ‘bipartisan’ means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.” This has certainly been the case in Congress recently, especially on education issues (case in point: the Every Student Succeeds Act, in which the Republicans proved they can “govern” by giving the Obama administration basically everything it wanted). Now congressional Republicans led by Speaker Paul Ryan are skipping down the bipartisan path yet again on the issue of Big Data and lifetime citizen surveillance.

Why do Republicans sometimes embrace the very worst schemes of the totalitarian Left? Can they not think through the implications of what they’re endorsing? In this case, the implications are extraordinarily dangerous to the foundational American principles of individual liberty and self-determination.

The vehicle for imposing expanded citizen surveillance is a new federal panel called the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking. The Speaker worked with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) on the legislation to create the Commission, which “is charged with reviewing the inventory, infrastructure, and protocols related to data from federal programs and tax expenditures while developing recommendations for increasing the availability and use of this data in support of rigorous program evaluation.”

The appeal of this Commission to “conservatives” is that it will recommend ways to evaluate federal programs and see which ones work and which are a waste of money We need a commission for this? If we just assume all federal programs are a waste, we’ll be right at least 95 percent of the time. And the federal government routinely ignores research, such as the massive evidence that Head Start is useless, that doesn’t support its preferred policies.

But “program evaluation” is the excuse. And the basis of the Commission’s work will be expanded sharing of personal data on American citizens. In a free society, that’s a price too high to pay.

The authorizing statute makes it clear that the Commission must explore new and exciting ways of sharing personal citizen data. The Commission is directed to:

  • “determine the optimal arrangement for which administrative data on Federal programs . . . may be integrated and made available to facilitate program evaluation, continuous improvement, policy-relevant research, and cost-benefit analyses by qualified researchers and institutions . . .”;
  • “make recommendations on how data infrastructure, database security, and statistical protocols should be modified to best fulfill” these objectives;
  • “consider whether a clearinghouse for program and survey data should be established and how to create such a clearinghouse”;
  • determine “which survey data [this] administrative data may be linked to, in addition to linkages across administrative data series . . .”;
  • determine what incentives may facilitate interagency sharing of information to improve programmatic effectiveness . . .”

Although the statute mentions protecting privacy and data-security, its general thrust is to determine how the federal data troves can be shared among various agencies and with researchers.

The composition of the Commission is likewise designed to reach the desired goal of increasing disclosure of personal data. Of the fifteen commissioners (appointed by the President, the Speaker, and the House Minority Leader), only five are to be “expert[s] in protecting personally-identifiable (sic) information and data minimization.” The rest are to be researchers and program-administrators – people whose professional lifeblood is access to data, and who will reliably advocate for fewer restrictions on that access.

One of the Commission’s hot-button issues is whether to allow a federal student unit-record system. A unit-record system would enable the federal government to collect personally identifiable information (PII) on individual higher-education students and link that data to lifelong workforce data. Essentially, it would allow government to track individuals throughout their lives by linking their education to their employment outcomes.

What’s wrong with a unit-record system? For one thing, it would suck all post-secondary students into a massive federal database, without their consent or even their knowledge, merely because they enrolled in college. For another, it would inevitably burst all boundaries to include any data that might conceivably be connected to education – employment, health, military service, financial status, criminality — world without end, amen. And this ever-expanding dossier would be permanent.

But surely the government can be trusted to protect this data. Right. The U.S. Department of Education (USED) has been found shockingly lax in protecting the enormous amount of sensitive PII it already has, primarily through its office of Federal Student Aid. After a hearing uncovered the practically non-existent data-security at USED, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) observed that “almost half the population of the United States of America has their personal information sitting in this database which is not secure.”

But security aside, the compilation of enormous amounts of personal data on American citizens fundamentally changes the relationship between the individual and government. It has an intimidating effect on the individual – even if the data is never used. This is especially true when the collector wields the force of law. A citizen who is afraid of what the government has on him is a citizen who will be loath to challenge that government.

Because such surveillance and tracking is (or should be) anathema in America, Congress wisely prohibited it in the Higher Education Act. But goaded by special-interest vultures well-funded by such rogues as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Congress is – on a bipartisan basis – weakening.

An early sign was introduction of the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, which would allow a unit-record system with the excuse of informing prospective college students about the earnings of particular colleges’ graduates. This surveillance and tracking bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), whose family, you may recall from the campaign, is from Cuba. CUBA, for crying out loud. How can someone from Cuba not realize the dangers of the government’s tracking individuals throughout their lives?

And now we have the bipartisan Commission to produce a glossy report recommending repeal of the unit-record ban in service of research and “consumer information.”

On October 21 the Commission first heard testimony from an array of “stakeholders,” all but one of whom urged opening up citizens’ PII for more research, analysis, and tracking. Yes, they conceded, we must protect privacy, but it’s imperative that greater and more accessible databases be created so that the government can better help citizens run their own lives.

Parent activist Cheri Kiesecker has compiled a valuable compendium of the testimony and agendas of these witnesses. For example, the American Statistical Association bemoaned the bother of having to go before institutional review boards to justify research on unsuspecting citizens. The representative of the Workforce Data Quality Campaign confided that current restrictions sometimes force stakeholders to use “non-standard processes, [to] go through personal relationships or particular capacities within agencies at particular times.” According to this witness, federal bureaucrats are already giving their buddies access to restricted data. And we’re going to increase the personal data these criminal bureaucrats have access to?

Most of the data-mongers made it clear they want much more than just college students’ records linked to workforce data. Particularly blunt about this was the witness from Booz Allen Hamilton (former employer of Edward Snowden), which specializes in predictive intelligence. His company, he said, wants a centralized federal database from every conceivable federal source. “For example,” he said, “eligibility and participation tracked by the Social Security Administration – when combined with taxpayer data and tax subsidies from the IRS, survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and data from other agencies, such as HHS and HUD – could exponentially . . . enhance our potential to draw insights that could not have been derived before.”

No kidding. Compared to this vision, the NSA database is a filing cabinet.

The lonely witness who opposed this well-funded propaganda onslaught was my colleague Emmett McGroarty of American Principles Project.  McGroarty emphasized the intimidating effect that governmental compilation of citizen dossiers has on supposedly free individuals. “Our republic rests on the idea that the citizen will direct government. That cannot happen where government sits in a position of intimidation over the individual.”

The most recent Commission hearing, held on March 13, featured a federal bureaucrat who pushed for a fundamental culture shift in government. She argued that we need a “Yes, unless” expectation of data-sharing among federal agencies – in which all bureaucrats err on the side of data-sharing and “recognize the risks of failing to share data.” And, she advocated, the federal government should help states harmonize all their databases across different organizations, “with capacity to roll up to a national level.” Thus could we achieve data Shangri-La – all states sharing citizens’ personal data with each other and with the feds.

The dangers of such a wellspring of personal data are apparent from a recent Washington Post article about China’s grand plan for data-use. Though no one is (officially) contemplating this type of thing here, the totalitarian leanings of too many in government should give us pause. The report begins:

Imagine a world where an authoritarian government monitors everything you do, amasses huge amounts of data on almost every interaction you make, and awards you a single score that measures how “trustworthy” you are.

In this world, anything from defaulting on a loan to criticizing the ruling party, from running a red light to failing to care for your parents properly, could cause you to lose points.

And in this world, your score becomes the ultimate truth of  who you are – determining whether you can borrow money, get your children into the best schools or travel abroad; whether you get a room in a fancy hotel, a seat in a top restaurant – or even just get a date.

This is the “social credit” system that China plans to implement by 2020. “The ambition is to collect every scrap of information available online about China’s companies and citizens in a single place – and then assign each of them a score based on their political, commercial, social and legal ‘credit.’”

This system would harvest all online interactions and combine them with government data — court, police, banking, tax, education, and employment records. Can we see parallels with the massive federal database advocated by some witnesses at the Commission hearings?

Like our federal officials, the Chinese government offers a plausible reason for its Big Brother plan. With the new system, the government argues, it will be able to detect and punish “companies selling poisoned food or phony medicine, to expose doctors taking bribes and uncover con men preying on the vulnerable.”

And in alignment with the mushrooming number of “public-private partnerships” in the U.S., private companies in China are setting up credit databases that grade citizens on their behavior and dole out favors (such as more efficient car-rental) based on their scores.

One American lawyer working in China warns that if the government can overcome the technological challenges of establishing this system, it would wield extraordinary power to keep people “in line.” Imagine how social-media posts that criticize the government would torpedo a citizen’s score. This lawyer sees the scheme as a technologically turbocharged Cultural Revolution.

Would this happen in America if Congress established a central database? Unlikely – for now. But with so many well-funded “stakeholders” straining at the bit to get access to personal citizen data, for uses limited only by their own imaginations – and with so many of them openly advocating increased surveillance and tracking — it’s virtually certain we’ll head down a road that would make our founders shudder.

Currently, federal data resides in “silos” – education data related to education, IRS data related to income and taxes, Medicaid/Medicare data related to healthcare, etc. – that are in most respects separate from each other.  Contrary to the arguments of the Commission’s witnesses, this isn’t a problem – it’s a good thing. It is a check on the natural tendency of centralized government to overstep boundaries and increase its power. We knock down the walls of these silos at our peril.

“Conservative” politicians ought to understand this instinctively. It’s time for free-born American citizens to remind them.

Alabama Workforce-Data Bills Threaten Student, Family Privacy

Photo credit: Jim Bowen (CC-By-2.0)

What with manipulation of currency and theft of jobs, China is held in fairly low repute, especially down South. But some Alabama legislators seem enamored of at least one part of the Chinese system – the one that compiles enormous amounts of data on citizens, beginning when they’re toddlers and continuing through their careers, and swaps this data back and forth among various government agencies for government purposes. One might expect this kind of dangerous nonsense from, say, California, but . . . Alabama?

Parents and citizens are alarmed at two companion bills (SB 153 and HB  97) currently moving through the legislature to create a massive centralized warehouse of education and workforce data. This system would be called ANSWERS, or the Alabama Network of Statewide Workforce and Education-Related Statistics, which would be administered by a new Department of Labor bureaucracy called the Office of Education and Workforce Statistics (the “Office”).

The reach of ANSWERS would be sweeping. Operated by the Office, the system would combine education data (beginning in pre-K) and workforce data to provide information on the effectiveness of educational and workforce-training programs, and to assess “the availability of a skilled workforce to address current and future demands of business and industry.” (The bills don’t explain how the government can predict the “future demands of business and industry”; the Soviet Union tried it, but without much success.) The data could then be analyzed for whatever purposes the bureaucrats come up with, and used for “research” which, if history is any guide, will be ignored if it doesn’t support what the bureaucrats want to do.

How would this work? An Advisory Board would be established to identify the types of data that certain listed governmental entities would have to dump into the centralized warehouse. The statutory (and non-exclusive) list of such data sources includes all education agencies in the state, from pre-school through four-year universities – plus the Departments of Labor, Commerce, and Veterans’ Affairs. So these billions of data points on practically all Alabama citizens would be centralized into one repository to be sifted and shifted by central planners.

But surely the Advisory Board will be constructed so as to protect the interests of children and their parents. Not exactly. Of the 24 members, 22 must be either politicians, bureaucrats, or representatives of specific entities such as higher-education systems. One must represent private industry and know something about data-security (the bills’ only nod to security concerns), and the last shall be a lonely “representative of the public” (not necessarily a parent). The fix, ladies and gentlemen, is in.

The privacy concerns with ANSWERS are staggering. For one thing, although certain proponents have suggested the data would all be de-identified, the bills clearly contemplate the presence of personally identifiable data (by requiring “security clearance . . . for individuals with access to personally identifiable data”). Indeed, the bills specify that the Office would be considered an “authorized representative” under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and the only point of such a designation is to be entitled to receive students’ personally identifiable without parental consent or even notification.

Even if all data were to be de-identified, data can be frequently re-identified – especially when there are hundreds of data points on each individual to enable data-matching. And the bills even specify that the Office is to “link educational, workforce, and workforce training data from multiple sources through quality matching.” In such a vast repository, anonymization will be difficult if not impossible.

No more comforting is the bills’ requirement that the system comply with FERPA and other unspecified privacy laws. Five years ago the Obama administration gutted FERPA by regulation, thus enabling almost unlimited disclosure of personally identifiable student data as long as certain terms are used to justify the disclosure. Do the bills’ sponsors not know this? If not, what are they doing writing legislation that relies on FERPA “protections”?

The bills require no particular system of data-security, leaving that up to the Office. But the Office will have an unenviable task, given that this wealth of extremely sensitive information (including student education data, Social Security numbers from the Labor Department, family income information from student-loan programs, and on and on) will be conveniently assembled into one neat package and therefore made enormously attractive to hackers. One might as well assemble all the crown jewels of Europe into one room and hope jewel thieves don’t notice.

If enacted, ANSWERS would be among the most intrusive longitudinal data systems in the country – only 16 states and D.C. have such an Orwellian system. But most Alabama parents understand that the government has no right to collect highly personal data on their children, or on adults for that matter, and give it to other agencies to track their journey through the workforce and through life. It is none of the government’s business. One would have expected Alabama officials to understand this as well.

An equally fundamental, and troubling, aspect of this contemplated data repository is its adoption of the statist “socialization,” workforce-development philosophy of education. Traditional education in America has been designed to develop each individual to the full extent of his talents, to expose him to the best of human thought; statist education is designed to train him to be a cog in the economic machine. Only if the State adopts the latter philosophy does it need a data repository to track citizens and see how the training is working out.

Fortunately, Alabama State Superintendent Michael Sentance has a strong history in a true educational system rather than a workforce-training system. His experience as Secretary of Education in Massachusetts back when that state educated children better than any other state in the nation should prepare him to recognize the dangers of the ANSWERS network.

In public statements so far, Sentance has focused on the critical problems with data security. The parents of Alabama students are counting on him to go further – to reel in the dangerous inclination of the all-powerful State to collect data on free-born citizens and use it to analyze them as though rats in a laboratory. If Sentance comes out against ANSWERS, that ill-advised scheme will probably go down. Alabama is not China. Supt. Sentance can ensure that it doesn’t become so.

Protecting Privacy at the Expense of Privacy

When we think of children, the first thing that comes to mind is their protection; protection from known risks, protection from violence, drunk drivers, illness, and the likes of Madonna and Ashley Judd.  In the age of internet-everything we want kids to be safe from exposure to pornography and child predators who spy on children without our knowledge.  When we’re not with them, we want to find a place where they will be safe and we can feel comfortable they’re under the watchful eye of people who also want to protect them.

Many parents think of school as that place.  We anticipate teachers are concerned for our children’s well-being, Madonna and Ashley Judd won’t be invited for career day, and there wouldn’t be porn or internet stalkers (because we know schools wouldn’t let internet stalkers spy on our kids).

What could go wrong?  How about everything?

As technology has become more deeply embedded in school culture, student level data is being gathered at an accelerated rate.  Tech companies are being given nearly unfettered access to student information via 1:1 devices, online resources and apps used by teachers in classrooms, digital textbooks, and the expansion of adaptive/personalized learning.  Every keystroke, every search term, every bookmark, every internet site, every log-in to a standardized test, is gobbled up, chewed, and swallowed by Big Data.

The proliferation of technology in classrooms has created serious concerns about the glut of data streaming out of classrooms and into the possession of multi-billion dollar corporations.  Google, which has flooded classrooms with Chromebooks, has consistently been the subject of a myriad of litigation involving abusive privacy practices such as intercepting email communications, scanning email for the purposes of targeted advertising, and collecting and data mining children’s personal preferences. A class action filed in March 2016, alleges illegal collection and use of biometric information.  Hello there, creepy internet stalker!

In 2015, Congress passed the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  However, the bill signed by President Obama failed to either include student data privacy protections or close the loopholes in existing federal law.

In response to mounting evidence of misuse of student data, privacy violations and data breaches, the Software and Information Industry Association and the Future of Privacy Forum collaborated to produce the Student Privacy Pledge, a voluntary effort to commit student service providers to good privacy practices regarding their collection and use of student data.  Since its release in 2014, more than 300 companies have signed the pledge which contains specific prohibitions on selling personal information, and creating student profiles for behavioral targeted advertising.  The pledge was intended to offer reassurances that Google wouldn’t use information about children to inundate them with advertisements.

Since then, many states have adopted legislation to place similar restrictions on how tech companies can use, store, and share student data as it relates to targeted advertising.  Most of the new privacy laws are spearheaded by lobbyists for big data, i.e., Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, and merely codify the Student Privacy Pledge.  If you’re scratching your head wondering why Google, et al, would support legislation limiting their share of what some say will be a $59 billion industry by 2018, ponder no longer.

The Student Privacy Pledge only applies to targeted advertising and states:

“Nothing in this pledge is intended to prohibit the use of student personal information for purposes of adaptive learning or customized education.”

To date, all privacy legislation contains the same or similar language, which means those creepy internet stalkers from whom children need protection get a free pass.  The statutory language carves out an exception that allows service providers to gather student Personally Identifiable Information (PII), for use in digital learning programs.  They just can’t try to sell kids a Happy Meal based web on their browsing habits.

Parents need to know the definition of PII; any data that directly, or in combination with other data, identifies an individual or student, but they also need to understand the breadth of the definition.

For example, privacy statutes and pending bills (see New Hampshire, Oregon, California, Georgia, Arkansas, Maine, Connecticut, Idaho, Delaware, Kansas, and Nevada), define PII as data:

“…including, but not limited to, information in the student’s educational record or email, first and last name, home address, date of birth, telephone number, unique pupil identifier, social security number, financial or insurance account numbers, email address, other information that allows  physical or online contact, discipline records, test results, special education data, juvenile dependency records, grades, evaluations, criminal records, medical records, health records, biometric information, disabilities, socioeconomic information, food purchases, political affiliations, religious information, text messages, documents, other student identifiers, search activity, photos, voice recordings, or geo-location information.”

Biometric information is the measurement of people’s physical and behavioral characteristics.  It can include fingerprints, DNA, face, hand, and ear features, as well as typing rhythm, gait, voice recordings, iris scans, and gestures.  Biometric information has been used by schools to track such things as attendance and food purchases.  However, in 2014, Florida became the first state to ban schools from collecting student biometric data.

Nothing, however, prohibits the use of our children’s fingerprints, DNA, heart rate, or iris scans by multi-billion dollar corporations.  And nothing prevents private corporations from taking this information from students without parental consent.  At a time when aspirin can’t be dispensed to a student without a signed release, a parent’s authority to protect their child from invasive surveillance is non-existent.

Current online data privacy legislation is a ruse.  It ultimately protects very little and makes vulnerable some of the most sensitive, private characteristics of our children.  Parental authority is usurped, student privacy is eroded, and tech giants gather PII under the guise of building educational tools, none of which require biometric information to function.  Personally, I think I’d rather have Google try to sell my child a Happy Meal.