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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Parents say no to sharing student data

By Shant Shahrigian
Posted

Members of the Robert J. Christen School’s (PS 81) Parent Association (PA) are joining the citywide backlash against inBloom, the controversial storage site for personal data on students.

Some of the parents are calling for State Senate Co-Majority Leader Jeffrey Klein to take action to protect their children’s data, while a separate group is suing state authorities to prevent them from releasing students’ information to inBloom.

“I think everybody really wants some tighter restrictions,” said Lauren Carmona, president of the PS 81 PA. “Everybody wants to know their kids’ privacy is going to be respected and they’re not at the mercy of corporate America.”

In February of this year, inBloom announced that nine states including New York agreed to upload a wide range of information on public school students to a data cloud run by online retailer Amazon.com.

Advocates including Bill Gates, whose foundation helped contribute funds to the nonprofit inBloom, touted the program as a one-stop resource for both educators and third-party developers to access student data.

But at public forums, parents have blasted the program, saying it could make their children’s data vulnerable to hackers. They also are wary of inBloom’s plans to transfer that data to for-profit companies.

Seven states have dropped out of partnerships with inBloom.  

Meanwhile, New York State’s Department of Education (DOE) has stayed on course with the project despite the growing anger of parents and their calls to abandon inBloom. 

Ms. Carmona and her PA’s vice president, America Rosario, said PA members at PS 81 only recently became aware of the project.

“I think the state has done an excellent job of keeping this very, very quiet,” Ms. Carmona said. “But once people have sort of been informed about it, people are like, ‘Wait a minute. Hold on. What’s happening?’”

At their latest monthly meeting, the PA formed a subcommittee to further look into inBloom. Mr. Rosario said some parents want Sen. Klein to support bills that give parents the ability to opt out of programs such as inBloom.

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