Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Government Collecting Private Information

Far more personal information on students than is necessary is being collected by public schools, according to the Fordham Law School Center on Law and Information Policy, which investigated education records in all 50 states. States are failing to safeguard students' privacy and protect them from data misuse. Some states collect a lot of data that have nothing to do with student test scores, including Social Security numbers, disciplinary records, family wealth indicators, student pregnancies, student mental health and illness. The building of databases that track students from pre-school through entry into the workforce began with the emphasis in the 1990s on testing and standards, and was expanded under "No Child Left Behind" mandates. This data collection has been proceeding at a "breakneck pace" under the Obama Administration because of the offer of federal grants awarded through the Race to the Top competition and the Stimulus funds.

The Fordham law professor who oversaw the investigation said that states are "trampling the privacy interests of students." He warns that years later, when these kids are adults, information from their elementary, middle and high school years can easily be misused by hackers and others. The Fordham report made numerous recommendations to beef up student privacy such as collecting only information relevant to articulated purposes, purging unjustified data, enacting time limits for data retention, and hiring a Chief Privacy Officer for each state. There is no indication that these suggestions will be implemented.

This massive collection of private information on all schoolchildren is an ominous imitation of the file (called dangan) on student performance and attitudes, from school years through employment that is compiled by Communist China on every individual in order to exercise totalitarian control over the population.

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