The inBloom controversy : progress or privacy?

HOST INTRO: When the state department announced, last year, that private identity information of public school students would be gathered and stored in a brand new database, parents, teacher and even then Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio were apoplectic. In the end, the State Atttorney General put the breaks on it. Today, member of the State Assembly met with the project’s proponents and its critics. Marie Shabaya reports.

InBloom is an online database that schools can use to store personal, names, test
scores and even who their parents are. It was created by a non-profit with a $100
million grant from the Gates and the Carnegie Foundations. And its infrastructure
is built on software created by a subsidiary of News Corporation. Education
Committee chair Catherine Nolan said at today’s committee that there’s really no
need for this kind of service.

NOLAN: Some of this just becomes extremely intrusive. There’s no need for
everyone to know that. Its one thing for the teacher in the classroom to have
some working knowledge of the student’s family background its thing to
upload it to the cloud. We’re not talking about things like selecting course.

Critics of inBloom worry that the data isn’t safe. Or that hackers can access the
information or inBloom might even sell the data. But Virginia Bartlett, inBloom’s
Chief Privacy officer, told the committee the information will be so safe that even
she won’t be able to read it.

BARTLETT: The information about New York State students is unreadable to
inBloom and deleted when the student gradates or the contract is terminated
whichever comes first.
One member of the committee suggested the controversy would end if parents
could opt out but Ken Wagner of the New York State Education department, which is
inBloom’s client, said that that would violate the purpose of the database

WAGNER: If there were a provision for parental opt out, there will be a
fundamental interference with school district’s ability to provide educational
services to the students under their preview.

Committee member, Daniel O’Donell was not convinced.
O’DONNELL: Just so you know, I absolutely don’t believe word you just said. New York is one of nine states that initially committed to use inBloom last year.

State Education Department won’t use it the database until next fall. In the meantime it’s trying to reach some agreement with the state legislature on data sharing policies.

Marie Shabaya, Columbia Radio News.

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