At a recent hearing in Brentwood, a Levittown parent told state senators of her concerns that hackers could invade a state-sponsored computer cloud to access confidential data about her children.
“I also feel that there are hackers out there that can break through those firewalls… and access this important private data,” said Marianne Adrian or Levittown. “It’s stored on a cloud system. I do not feel like that has the security that it needs to house my children’s data.”
At the same hearing, Nassau BOCES Superintendent Tom Rogers told the committee that the state education department was sharing masses of sensitive student data without appropriate oversight.
At issue is the state’s alliance with inBloom, a data gathering company developed by the Gates Foundation. To win federal Race to the Top funds, state education officials agreed to provide inBloom with student data on tests as well as data on disabilities, and discipline.
Educators believe that by using this cloud technology, third party vendors can develop computer apps to individualize instruction and diagnose learning problems.
Sounds promising, but not to State Senator Jack Martins who worries about privacy. His sensible legislation would require state educators to gain parental consent before sharing sensitive student data with inBloom and third parties. Last year, the Assembly approved similar legislation.
At the very least, state legislators should ask: Are the benefits of this massive data gathering effort worth the costs? And does the state need an oversight board to regulate any such sharing of student data?
Clearly, the state education department’s flawed alliance with inBloom needs re-thinking; otherwise, it could be nipped in the bud.