Consider Yourself Warned

By Deb Herbage

If you were walking down the street and a stranger stopped you and asked you to hand over your driver’s license and social security card….would you?  Of course, you wouldn’t!  Those two items contain extremely personal information – YOUR personal information.  Your driver’s license has your full name, your picture, your birthdate, a unique number (in some state’s it could be your social security number), your address, your height and weight, any restrictions for driving a vehicle and even your eye color.  How about if you put your wallet down for a few seconds and a stranger snatched it, essentially stealing your information.  Wouldn’t that make you feel violated?  You would have to start the whole process of canceling your credit cards, getting a new driver’s license and possibly putting a hold on your credit.  How about if that same stranger who asked you to hand over your driver’s license and social security card in the street told you they wanted your information so they could sell it to the highest bidder.  Wouldn’t you be outraged?  Then WHY are you allowing it to happen to your child(ren)?

Schools across the country have been and continue to set up accounts for our children with a multitude of Edtech vendors.  Schools are allowed to do this under COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act – set up in 1998), however, they are not informing parents and they are not seeking parental permission to do so – especially for minor children under the age of 13.  Parents are completely unaware this is happening.  In most cases, schools are instructing kids to click “I Agree” when they set these accounts up, bypassing parental permission and essentially allowing these Edtech companies to collect and mine massive amounts of data from our kids.  Data they do not have permission to take from parents but do from schools.   Please know, this data is not restricted to when your child is using the application/software/program at school……when kids come home from school and log in to complete homework assignments or study…..the data is flowing from your home computer/iPad/device to the Edtech company.  Your IP address is considered personal information because it is specific to you – that is just one of the over 50,000 data points being collected by the Edtech companies.  Under the new GDPR – that would be a fineable offense.  The data being collected is not being protected.  Here is an article from 2012 detailing the worst offenders of privacy violations – Privacy Hall of Shame – Microsoft, Google, and Facebook – who all own Edtech companies and push for data collection:

I looked into just one of the Edtech companies my daughter’s school chose to use and set up accounts with on her behalf, without my permission or even acknowledgment, and I was horrified at what I read.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH).  There are many more she is being forced to use where accounts were set up for her.  I read the privacy policy for HMH and this is what I learned about the school setting up my daughter’s account without my permission from HMH’s privacy policy. They state that I consented to:

  • I consent to having private information collected and stored which will be shared with third party vendors and “others”.
  • I consent to HMH using and sharing our information and data and “other activities”.
  • I consent to them using our and my daughter’s personal information, demographic information and usage information for a “variety of purposes”.
  • I consent to tracking technologies that collect and store information for a “variety of purposes” whether my daughter is at home or at school.
  • I consent to their tracking technologies which include, without limitation, these methods: cookies, web beacons, embedded scripts and entity tags which they will, from time to time, supplement with information they collect directly from my daughter with outside records from third parties.
  • I consent to them collecting personal, demographic, and usage information from my daughter for internal business purposes such as troubleshooting, data analysis, testing and service improvement.
  • I consent to them using, sharing and disclosing my and my daughter’s name, voice, likeness and other personal information that is part of the “user content” for advertising, marketing, publicity and promotional items.
  • Finally, giving my consent, they can and will give my information and my daughter’s information to third parties such as network advertisers and ad exchanges such as “Behavioral Ads” and “Contextual Ads”.

I did not consent to any of that.  I was not made aware that the school or school district set that account up for my daughter.  I found out by watching her log in on her personal laptop at home to complete homework.

When I confronted my school district via an email….I was told by the IT manager that it is MY responsibility to reach out to HMH with my concerns.  It is MY responsibility to contact HMH if there are any data breaches.  The data being collected is not limited to demographic information.  The data (education records) being collected has continuously expanded since 2014 to include SEL (Social Emotional Learning) skills which include the student’s values, beliefs, “grit” and attitudes.  How is this data collected?  Through algorithms.  Algorithms that lack transparency that are created to obtain specific information.  Algorithms that a lot of times are inaccurate.  You can read about this in this extremely well-documented article by Cheri Kiesecker.

This information and data, which are considered “education records” are being collected and sold to the highest bidder.

Some responsible school districts are offering Opt-In forms to parents.  These school districts are seeking parental permission for their child to participate in and use Edtech software/applications/programs. Here is an example of a responsible school district Opt-In form:

Parents, I cannot urge you strongly enough to look into what Edtech companies your child is using and read their privacy policies.  Look into what your school district has consented YOU to and what accounts have been set up for your child.  Many of these companies’ programs/software/applications are experimental.  Pearson, one of the education titans, was found to be embedding “social-psychological” experimental software in student’s educational and learning software.   Many of the applications our children are using fail to protect their data.

Thousands of Edtech applications/programs/software are improperly and illegally tracking children.  Another well researched and well-documented article by Cheri.

Tech “titans” are unrestricted, unregulated and profit off the backs of many unsuspecting parents and children.   It is a datapalooza free-for-all at the expense of our children.  You may not see any repercussions now…..but I can assure you – you will at some point in your child’s life.

If you feel violated after knowing someone stole your wallet containing your personal information or you experienced a data breach with your medical records, why are you allowing Edtech companies to violate your children?  Why are you allowing schools and school districts to set up accounts for your children without your permission or consent?  Why are you allowing your minor child(ren) to be continuously data mined?

How do we stop the data mining?  By not collecting it in the first place.  By being vigilant and protecting our children.

Consider yourself warned.



2 thoughts on “Consider Yourself Warned

  1. I am retired on Social Security. Had heard of rumors of this, but no kids or grandkids of school age! This should scare the living-daylights out of every citizen of our country and I am not tech illiterate, yet this is a huge violation of privacy laws. Thanks for this info. Forwarding it to family and friends that still DO have school-age kids!!! God bless!
    Pastor Roland Ledoux


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