A leading California lawmaker plans to introduce state legislation on Thursday that would shore up privacy and security protections for the personal information of students in elementary through high school, a move that could
alter business practices across the nearly $8 billion education technology software industry, the New York Times reports.
“The bill would prohibit education-related websites, online services and mobile apps for kindergartners through 12th graders from compiling, using or sharing the personal information of those students in California for any reason other than what the school intended or for product maintenance.
“The bill would also prohibit the operators of those services from using or disclosing the information of students in the state for commercial purposes like marketing. It would oblige the firms to encrypt students’ data in transit and at rest, and it would require them to delete a student’s record when it is no longer needed for the purpose the school intended.
“We don’t want to limit the legitimate use of students’ data by schools or teachers,” Senator Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat who is the sponsor of the bill and the president pro tempore of the California Senate, said in a phone interview. “We just think the public policy of California should be that the information you gather from students should be used for their educational benefit and for nothing else.”
“Lawmakers like Mr. Steinberg are part of a growing cohort of children’s advocates who say they believe that regulation has failed to keep pace with the rapid adoption of education software and services by schools across the country.
“A federal law, called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, limits the disclosure of students’ educational records by schools that receive federal funding. But some student advocates contend that an exception in the law, allowing the outsourcing of public school functions to private companies, may reveal personal information, hypothetically making children vulnerable to predatory practices. Continue reading “Student privacy and educational software”
Some of the biggest names in the tech world joined forces Monday to tell Uncle Sam that enough’s
Quit spying on their customers.
According to the LA Times, “AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo said in an open letter to President Obama that in light of recent revelations about the National Security Agency snooping
on websites and communications networks, there’s an “urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide.”
“That’s a pretty bold claim to the moral high ground considering that each of these companies routinely mines customer data for their own purposes (read: profit)
And then there’s AT&T, which made clear in a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission last week that it will keep complying with government requests for customer records “to the extent required by law.”
“Moreover, the telecom giant said the company shouldn’t have to come clean with shareholders about helping the feds peek into people’s lives. This stuff is top secret, AT&T said, so it has no obligation to address the issue at its annual shareholder meeting this spring. The company’s letter was a response to calls from the ACLU of Northern California and other groups for phone companies to be more upfront about their dealings with the NSA. The private sector always has had a troubled relationship with consumer privacy. Continue reading “Time to protect consumer privacy”
Polls show a solid majority of Americans continue to support the ritual sacrifice of their personal call data on the altar of our never-ending war with Oceania—er, excuse me, terrorism—even after sordid revelations brought to light by whistleblower Edward J. Snowden.
InTheseTimes asserts “There’s something fatalistic about this bedrock support for the new police state” as stated in a story excerpted briefly below.
“Could it be less a show of stubborn loyalty to federal spookery than a sort of learned helplessness, bred in the fingertips of an American public long used to marketers hovering over their Facebook and Google accounts, tracking—and then desperately seeking to monetize—every keystroke they make?
“Summer moviegoers had a proof-text for this hunch. In The Internship, a Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson buddy comedy, the Wedding Crashers duo play laid-off, middle-aged salesmen driven into a tour of duty as aspiring geeks at the grand, rainbow-hued Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. Hijinks ensue, as they try to adapt their old-dude people skills to the cool and clean rigors of profitable data transmission. Their younger colleagues are won over by their seedy charm, and our heroes see their pluck rewarded with jobs at the world’s coolest company.
“But what’s of real interest is the social background of the film. The Internship is an unrelieved study in the psychology of mass digital conformity—rendered far more insidious, of course, in the Google workplace’s absolute conviction that it detests all manner of conformity. Continue reading “Security, privacy, and everyone”
America’s’s concerns about government intrusion are older than the country itself, says Neil Richards, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
“If you want to talk about privacy, what would be less private than having a platoon of Redcoats living in your house, eating your food, listening to your conversations?” Richards asks. “… In the Constitution itself — the quartering of soldiers, the execution of general warrants — all have to do with the privacy of the home, the privacy of papers. NPR says:
“And though the Constitution doesn’t use the word ‘privacy,’ the separation of individuals and their information and their homes and their persons from the state is a theme that runs throughout the Bill of Rights.”
“Concerns about privacy ballooned again in the camera age. “Privacy as a theme in American law, and really in American public discussion, arose in 1890,” Richards says. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis — just a young lawyer at the time — wrote an article for The Harvard Law Review about the personal intrusions of the new “snap cameras.”
“The history of privacy in the U.S. is closely tied with the history of the press, and by the 1960s, that had become an embattled relationship. The ’60s, Richards says, were a major moment for American privacy, in part because of the growth of “pre-modern computers.” Back then, databases were called “data banks,” and they made people nervous. Continue reading “The History of privacy”
When the government gathers or analyzes personal information, many people say they’re not worried. “I’ve got nothing to hide,” they declare. “Only if you’re doing something wrong should you worry, and then you don’t deserve to keep it private.”
The nothing-to-hide argument pervades discussions about privacy, says privacy expert Daniel J. Solove in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education: “The data-security expert Bruce Schneier calls it the “most common retort against privacy advocates.” The legal scholar Geoffrey Stone refers to it as an “all-too-common refrain.” In its most compelling form, it is an argument that the privacy interest is generally minimal, thus making the contest with security concerns a foreordained victory for security.
“The nothing-to-hide argument is everywhere. In Britain, for example, the government has installed millions of public-surveillance cameras in cities and towns, which are watched by officials via closed-circuit television. In a campaign slogan for the program, the government declares: “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear.” Variations of nothing-to-hide arguments frequently appear in blogs, letters to the editor, television news interviews, and other forums. One blogger in the United States, in reference to profiling people for national-security purposes, declares: “I don’t mind people wanting to find out things about me, I’ve got nothing to hide! Which is why I support [the government’s] efforts to find terrorists by monitoring our phone calls!” Continue reading “Nothing to hide, eh?”
Facebook’s new search tool can allow strangers (like police, employers, or marketers), along with “friends” on Facebook, to discover who you are, what you like and where you go. the New York Times says that “While Facebook insists it is up to you to decide how much you want others to see, you cannot entirely opt out of Facebook searches. So right now Facebook is quietly nudging each of its billion subscribers to take a look at privacy setting and policies to be sure they know what is happening.
“The nudge could not have been more timely, said Sarah Downey, a lawyer with the Boston company Abine, which markets tools to help users control their visibility online. “It is more important than ever to lock down your Facebook privacy settings now that everything you post will be even easier to find,” she said. That is to say, your settings will determine, to a large extent, who can find you when they search for women who buy dresses for toddlers or, more unsettling, women who jog a particular secluded trail. Continue reading “Thinking about Facebook privacy”
The developer behind Mobbles, a popular free game app for children, temporarily pulled the product from the Apple App store and Google Play store on Tuesday after learning that it was the subject of a complaint to federal authorities by children’s advocates.
The app, introduced this year, is an animated, location-based game in which children collect, take care of and trade colorful virtual pets called Mobbles. Continue reading “Phone apps collecting data on kids”
Sarah Kendzior offers thoughtful consideration of privacy issues raised in recent weeks surrounding Facebook and US CIA director David Petraeus in todays edition of Al Jazeera. Excerpted below are the opening paragraphs of her essay entitled “Why e-mail is and must remain private.”
“When I was a child, my grandfather offered me some advice: “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to read about in the newspaper”. To my nine-year-old self, this advice seemed strange, almost flattering. What could I possibly do that would be worthy of public interest? Why would anyone care? Continue reading “Considering internet privacy”
“You might want to think twice about how often you hang out at your local Best Buy in the future. In Japan, NEC has developed a new facial recognition system geared towards retailers that determines the age and gender of shoppers, and tracks how long and how often they visit a given store.” This story appears in today’s Gizmodo.
“The collected data can be used by a retailer to analyze trends in who exactly is visiting its stores, and what they can do to encourage repeat visits. And because the database of shoppers is stored in the cloud, it can’t be fooled by simply visiting another location on the other side of town. It will recognize you no matter where you shop, unless you invest in a believable fake beard and oversized sunglasses”
If you haven’t heard, the internet privacy wars are gearing up to what could be Armageddon for advertisers and commercial data collectors. With Microsoft automatically setting the “Do Not Track” option “On” in its latest version of Internet Explorer 10 as many as 43 percent of internet browsers may stop reporting customer information to merchandisers and other snoopers. As discussed recently in the New York Times, “The advent of “Do Not Track” threatens the barter system wherein consumers allow sites and third-party ad networks to collect information about their online activities in exchange for open access to maps, e-mail, games, music, social networks and whatnot. Marketers have been fighting to preserve this arrangement, saying that collecting consumer data powers effective advertising tailored to a user’s tastes. In turn, according to this argument, those tailored ads enable smaller sites to thrive and provide rich content.” Continue reading “To track or not to track”