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Ponderings on Gates, Murdoch, data mining, and National Student Numbers

Gates and Murdoch like to say their interest in education is because their big hearts mean they really must help the poor wee kiddies learn better.

Funny how they weren’t so interested until profit could be made, but hey, I’m just a bit cynical these days.

And it’s no wonder I am when you learn about things like this…

Data Mining

Gates and Murdoch have managed to wangle access to a huge field of very personal and incredibly detailed data from whole US school districts for every single child.

inBloom Wireless Education meme

What other info does inBloom collect?  Have a look for yourself right here on their web site.

Crimminy, that’s a whole lot of information they have about these kids.

Would you be happy to know the school district was handing over information about your child to a private company?

Name, address, all qualifications, how, where and when you were educated and by whom.  Yes, your teachers, teacher aides, home tutor, teacher assistant, family member that taught you, all listed.

Attendance?  Yes, all logged, including the category of ‘tardy’.  This is from first grade, as if a child that age is in charge of what time they reach school.

Had some trouble in school?  Whether it’s a violation or a breach of the school’s code of conduct, it’s there, including close detail about where it occurred.  Also a detailed record of any weapon type. That’s just plain spooky. Why does a private company need to know that?  The police and the school, yes.  Parents and carers, yes.  inBloom?  Not so much.

Your child has a disability?  Excellent, we’ll have that information too, thank you very much, and here are the inBloom categories:

  • Autistic/Autism
  • Deaf-Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Developmental Delay
  • Emotional Disturbance
  • Hearing/Auditory Impairment
  • Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities
  • Mental Retardation
  • Multiple Disabilities
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Other Health Impairment
  • Speech or Language Impairment
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Traumatic Brain Delay
  • Visual Impairment

I am not a numberOpting Out

You want to opt out?  You want to keep your information private?  Tough bananas.  As one parent said:

“I have emailed and called [State Commissioner] John King’s office over 40 times the past month refusing to consent to allow the DOE to transfer my children’s personal information into inBloom to be bought and sold around the world…”  He was told there was no option to opt out.  None. Your data, but not your choice.

Another concern is that the data is held in the cloud and its security cannot be guaranteed, but there’s nothing these parents can do about that, either.

It seems that the data is not yours even when it about you or your child.

Your child has been filed, stamped and indexed. Your child is a number.

So, why would a private company be mining this data?  

This is not the education system or health system or even the police collecting all of this information.  This is a business.

Just think about that for a minute.

They have your address, your email, sex, language, everything.

Great for targeted marketing, don’t you reckon.  Students are such great potential consumers.

As Diane Ravitch said “If anyone thinks for one New York minute that the purpose of creating this database is simply for the good of teachers and students then that person is credulous in the extreme.”

What about Aotearoa?

Well, from this year all Kiwi kids will have a National Student Number from the day they enter into education, and students cannot be opted out.

The Ministry of Education’s website says that “The National Student Number (NSN) is a unique identifier that can be used by authorised users for the following approved purposes:

  • monitoring and ensuring a student’s enrolment and attendance;
  • ensuring education providers and students receive appropriate resourcing;
  • statistical purposes;
  • research purposes; and
  • ensuring that students’ educational records are accurately maintained.”

It goes on to say that all other uses are prohibited, as if that should make us feel safe.  But since Gates and Murdoch use their systems as a way to collect student statistics and do (dodgy?) research, that’s hardly reassuring, is it?

The web site also tells us that the NSN “facilitates the collection and management of core identity information about a student in a central location” and that “[a]dditional authorised users can be added by regulation”.

So here’s the big question: Are we being lined up for a bit of Gates’ and Murdoch’s data mining jiggery pokery, too?

One to keep a very close eye on,

~Dianne

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