Parents Petition State to Stop Sharing Student Data on inBloom

Student privacy is at stake, and parents are left in the dark, educational advocates say.

Allison White and Deborah Brooks. Credit: Courtesy Photo
Allison White and Deborah Brooks. Credit: Courtesy Photo
Citing concerns over confidential student data, two Port Washington mothers with children in the public school system have created a MoveOn.org petition entitled “Protect New York State School Children.”

The petition aims to “Stop the New York State Education Department (NYSED) from sharing confidential information without parental consent and violating the privacy rights of students and parents.”

Allison White and Deborah Brooks, who started the petition with support of the Port Washington Legislative Task Force, say they are worried about inBloom, an Atlanta-based data gathering organization backed by the Gates Foundation. The organization is collecting New York State’s student’s personal data and storing it in a cloud, without enough safeguards protecting that data, and without parent’s knowledge and permission. To receive Race to The Top money, the State Education Department is requiring school districts to supply student data to inBloom, even those districts which do not accept Race to The Top funds.

“I have yet to meet a person in favor of this, aside from the Commissioner of Education, to expose children’s data like this,” White said.

Of particular concern, parents say, is inBloom’s seeming inability to protect student data if the cloud is compromised. The organization’s security policy states: “inBloom, Inc and inBloom, Inc Contractors strive to keep inBloom and PII secure, and inBloom, Inc uses reasonable administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to do so, however, inBloom, Inc cannot guarantee the security of the information stored in inBloom or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.”  

Meanwhile, as of Thursday, the petition has grown to include more 931 signatures, up from 200 on Tuesday when the petition was less than 48-hours old. The signatures are from across the state, from Massena, near the Canadian border, to Mastic Beach on eastern Long Island, and beyond.

Brooks thinks the petition is catching on because the issue of protecting children’s privacy resonates.

“With Common Core, there’s a difference of opinion,” she said, referring to new academic standards introduced across the country that aim to prepare students for college and careers. “One thing people are united on is the issue of children’s privacy. Privacy really is sacrosanct.”

That notion is shared by the Port Washington Legislative Task Force.

"It was agreed by community members that there is strong support for the grass roots community petition that opposes the State Education Department's InBloom initiative that divulges private student data to a third party company that the local school district has no control of," said Rob Seiden, who heads the task force. 

He added that members are "committed to ensuring that we assist the school district in protecting the privacy of student data by mobilizing the community to become informed on the issue and letting our political leaders know our strong opposition to the risks posed by the InBloom plan."

Locally, officials say they need to hear from parents who are voicing opposition to the data shared on a data cloud.

“Individual parents are encouraged to express their concerns about inBloom to the Commissioner of Education, Board of Regents and state legislators directly,” Port Washington School Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Mooney said in a letter to parents.

And Sen. Jack Martins, R-Mineola, has introduced a bill mandating that any shared student information requires parental consent.”

Through the MoveOn.org petition, Brooks and White aim to make it easy for parents to let their voices be heard. Every signed petition is delivered to Eric Schneiderman, NYS Attorney General, Thomas P. DiNapoli, NYS Comptroller, NYS Board of Regents, John B. King, Commissioner NYSED, Merryl H. Tisch, Chancellor, The New York State House, The New York State Senate, and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

They encourage everyone to sign. 

“You don’t need to have children to be concerned about children’s privacy,” Brooks said. 


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