For many Americans, privacy has become a hot topic of discussion. As story after story rolls out about the NSA, CIA, FBI, DHS, and any other overreaching government organization abusing its power, Americans find themselves asking the hard questions and not liking the answers that fly back and smack them in the face.
The Fourth Amendment reads as follows:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
What does this mean beyond the obvious? It means that each of us has the right to be left alone to live life without interference unless there is probable cause that we have committed a crime and a warrant is issued by a judge. It is the government’s job to protect that right. This has not been the case.
You may think I am writing about the recent NSA debacle. It is a good assumption, but wrong. Thumbing through recent headlines, I came across an article that spoke of parents’ outrage over a new non-profit technology company called inBloom. This company provides a national database system at little to no cost for K-12 schools. It was sponsored mostly by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but a few other big corporations like Carnegie and Scholastic threw their money into the pot as well. The idea behind inBloom may seem like a good one. Their product description even says: inBloom, Inc. is a nonprofit organization working to make personalized learning a reality for every U.S. student by improving the effectiveness, variety and affordability of education technology.
But the problem comes with what inBloom actually does. It shares the metadata of every student, teacher, and school that participates with educational software companies. There are currently 22 companies developing software for inBloom. This number is expected to increase. Metadata for students includes, but is not limited to, their name, age, picture, grades, discipline record, and teacher communications. There is also an option for schools to share that data with anyone else they deem worthy. That could be another school in another state, and feasibly, it could be another country. The idea boasts teaching to the individual, but there is a strong leaning toward teaching a core curriculum throughout the country.
The parental outcry is based on the fact that no one asked them if it was okay to collect and distribute their children’s information. The fact that public schools take state and federal funds means that public schools are an extension of the state and federal government. Therefore, this collection of data makes the NSA’s programs look petty in comparison.
Schools have been mining data for a long time. Every child’s record is such. But the sharing of that data without consent really came into play with the No Child Left Behind Act. It required that all schools receiving federal funding for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 provide military recruiters the same data the schools give colleges and post-secondary job prospects.
Many cry foul, but few are willing to investigate how schools are getting away with this clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. Well, my friends, there is only one thing that takes precedence over the Constitution, and that one thing is contract law. Every year, when children go back to school, they are sent home with a student handbook along with a huge stack of papers for parents to read, sign, and return. Most parents do not read them. Many schools implement a policy that if this paperwork isn’t returned in X amount of time, students will be denied the ability to return to school. Why are these papers so important? They are effectively a contract. Parents are signing away their parental rights for anytime their children are in school or attending a school function. By contract, the school then has the ability to do whatever they want with your child and that child’s information unless the parent has said otherwise with a letter denying the school a particular right.
Bill Gates is a smart fellow and a savvy businessman. His foundation has donated a hefty amount to the 100 million dollar inBloom project, supposedly for the greater good of education. Former Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation employee Sharren Bates is the Chief Product Officer for inBloom. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Deputy Director Stacey Childress is on the board for inBloom. It is a non-profit, but rest assured there are many that will profit if it is implemented. The schools will cut costs in the long run because inBloom is the pipework that connects several applications. Educational software companies will profit because schools will need applications to run on their shiny new pipes.
The only people to not profit from inBloom are the people that have data being taken. Data is a big business. Data for children is priceless. In a move that thwarts the Constitution and parental rights in one swoop, inBloom allows for one of the largest data grabs to hit our nation, essentially running this country closer toward fascism than is to my liking. The only way this can be stopped is if parents finally remove themselves from the perilous road known as apathy and firmly set their boots on the path to liberty and responsibility.