After inBloom’s demise, advocates request “independent” privacy advocate

The state budget legislation passed four weeks ago ended New York’s partnership with inBloom, the controversial nonprofit dedicated to storing student data. It also created the position of a chief privacy officer at the state level.

Now, many of the privacy advocates and parents who protested the state’s relationship with inBloom want assurances about how the state will move forward with those new intiatives. Specifically, they are asking State Commissioner John King and the Board of Regents to appoint an “independent privacy advocate” to that position and to hold public hearings about the new data-sharing restrictions.

“The Commissioner, the Chancellor and the Regents must learn the lessons of inBloom,” Class Size Matters’ Leonie Haimson said in a statement.

Their full letter is below:

To Commissioner King and the Board of Regents: For more than two years, since the state entered into a data-sharing agreement with inBloom, you have refused to notify the public, hold hearings, or even answer parents’ questions about your plans to disclose the personal information of their children to this corporation.  Your lack of respect for student privacy and parental concerns was also made clear by the fact New York was the last state among nine to sever its relationship to inBloom and the ONLY one in which a law had to be passed to do this. Now that inBloom is closing its doors and the new state law contains a range of new privacy protections, including a privacy officer who will develop a parent bill of rights, we urge you to demonstrate a new transparency and accountability by taking the following steps: 1-  Minimize the state’s collection and sharing of personal student data and maximize the opportunities for parental notification and consent; 2-  Appoint an independent privacy advocate as your privacy officer, rather than someone from inside the NYS Education Department or from the corporate world; 3-  Hold public hearings and elicit comments and suggestions from parents and other stakeholders as to the parent bill of rights and the regulations that will enact the new law, while also encouraging the public to submit their comments online and posting them; 4-  Appoint an advisory board of parents, advocates, educators, administrators and privacy experts to guide your work going forward and to provide independent oversight for the state’s P20 “cradle to the grave” student tracking system, that is designed to collect and link personal data on children from many state agencies; 5-  Immediately post any and all contracts in which the State is providing personal student data to vendors and other third parties– including your agreement with the PARCC consortium that is developing the new tests that will replace the state exams; 6-  These agreements should delineate exactly which data elements are being disclosed to third parties, what restrictions have been placed on their use, whether the third parties are barred from redisclosing the data without parental consent, what security and encryption protections are being used, and when the data will be destroyed. If you take the steps outlined above, it will help demonstrate a new acknowledgement on your part that parents have a legitimate interest in the privacy and security of their children, which must be respected rather than ignored. Sincerely yours, Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters, New York City Tim Farley, founding member of NY State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) and Columbia County parent Mary Adams, RN, MPH, Rochester City School District parent and Rochester City School Board member Anna Shah, Parent; parent, Duchess Co., founder: Hudson Valley Parent-Educator Initiative; Co-founder HVACC; NYSAPE member Lisa Rudley, Ossining/Westchester County parent, Ossining Citizens For Schools, founding NYSAPE member Marla Kilfoyle Teacher, NBCT, BATs General Manager Sue Adler, City School District of Albany parent and School Board member Nancy K. Cauthen, NYC parent, steering committee member of Change the Stakes and NYSAPE Danielle Boudet, co-founder of Oneonta Area for Public Education & NYSAPE co-founder Deborah Abramson Brooks, Esq., parent, Nassau County, co-author, Children’s Data Protection and Privacy Petition Chris Cerrone, Springville/Erie County parent/educator, West New Yorkers for Public Education, founding NYSAPE member Jessica McNair, Oneida County parent, co-founder Opt Out Central NY, member NYSAPE Katie Zahedi, Principal, NYSAPE Melissa Barber, parent, Monroe County, founder of Rush-Henrietta parents against High Stakes Testing, NYSAPE Jeanette Deutermann, parent, Nassau County, Founder LI Opt Out, Co-Founder NYSAPE Bianca Tanis, Ulster County parent, Steering Member, Rethinking Testing Mid-Hudson, Co-founder, NYSAPE Lori Atkinson Griffin, Lewis County teacher and NYSAPE member Lisa Eggert Litvin, Co -President, Tracy Pyper, Vice President Advocacy, and the Hastings-on-Hudson PTSA Executive Board Nan Berke & Mary Beth Evans, co-chairs, Scarsdale Parent-Teacher Council Legislation Committee