Tom Porter of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network has a piece on a new law that comes into effect in Maine next week that will enable the state Department of Education to track the progress of students using their social security numbers. While the law makes it optional for students and parents to provide schools with this data, the Maine Civil Liberties Union is concerned enough that it issued a “back-to-school privacy alert.”
“There are mutiple concerns about the use of social security numbers for students in this statewide database,” says MCLU’s Executive Director Shenna Bellows. Bellows says one big worry is the threat of a security breach, citing the theft in 2006 of over 26 million social security numbers from the Veterans Affairs database.
Her other main concern is that this new law will enable the state to track students from their earliest grades, through their employment after graduation. “The social security number allows this database and this information to be linked with the Department of Labor,” Bellows says. “That means school records, including disciplinary records, are going to be linked to labor records. Parents and students need to decide whether this is something that they want to do.”
Not enough is being done, she says, to make students and parents aware that this is not a mandatory requirement. The legislation puts the onus on schools to inform parents that this is an optional program, but many schools, she adds, are still in the dark about how the law will be implemented.
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