There has been much discussion and controversy concerning the steady governmental creep into all education choices, including the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Some of the concern stems from federal and state inter-agency data sharing. Organizations such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), have been paying attention and actively and officially oppose these intrusions. In 2011, the Department of Education agency’s Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulation revisions were challenged by EPIC via comments. EPIC is a “public interest research center in Washington, D.C., established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect constitutional values and the rule of law.” The laws were intended “to protect the privacy of [student] records by preventing unauthorized access by third parties“. EPIC v. Department of Education was heard on July 24 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. EPIC to Defend Student Privacy Rights in Federal Court
On July 24, EPIC President Marc Rotenberg and EPIC Administrative Law Counsel Khaliah Barnes will present arguments in federal district court in Washington, DC in support of student privacy. In EPIC v. Dept. of Education, No. 12-327, EPIC is challenging recent changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that allow the release of student records for non-academic purposes and undercut parental consent provisions.
EPIC and other privacy rights advocates (co-plaintiffs Grayson Barber, Pablo Molina, Peter G. Neumman, and Dr. Deborah Peel) feel the Obama administration’s regulation interpretation is contrary to the privacy laws and exceeds the agency’s authority. EPIC contends the Obama Department of Education does the following: Unprecedented and Unlawful Release of Confidential Student Information Otherwise Protected by the FERPA, ignores the Purpose of FERPA and Relies on a Fundamental Misreading of Appropriations Legislation, proposes an Unauthorized, Unlawful Sub-Delegation of Its Own Authority, expands “Educational Programs”: using the Pretext of Education To Justify Exposing Troves of Sensitive, Non-Academic Data, along with the use of Student ID Numbers as “Directory Information”: The Agency Insufficiently Safeguards Students from the Risks of Re-Identification. The Colorado State Board of Education also heard EPIC’s concerns about InBloom’s partnering with education agencies to gather children’s personal information. If private school children, including homeschoolers, are in ‘the system’ from former public schooling or health and/or welfare benefits, they’re in this mish-mash. Even back in 2000, the Clinton White House released a memo concerning data sharing guidance.
Inter-agency sharing of information about individuals can be an important tool in improving the efficiency of government programs. By sharing data, agencies can often reduce errors, improve program efficiency, identify and prevent fraud, find intended beneficiaries, evaluate program performance, and reduce information collection burden on the public. As government increasingly moves to electronic collection and dissemination of data, under the Government Paperwork Elimination Act and other programs, opportunities to share data across agencies will likely increase. Agencies should work together to determine what data sharing opportunities are desirable, feasible, and appropriate. In general, data sharing should only be pursued if the benefits outweigh the costs.
The question remains who or what is receiving the benefit – the child or the agency facilitators. Private schools (including homeschoolers) should be paying attention to this expansion of power via personal and private information.