Danah Boyd has a commentary on efforts to reform FERPA that cuts to the heart of some issues. She writes, in part:
The bills are pretty spectacularly different, pushing for a range of mechanisms to limit abuses of student data. Some are fine-driven; others take a more criminal approach. There are also differences in who can access what data under what circumstances. The bills give different priorities to parents, teachers, and schools. Of course, even though this is all about *students*, they don’t actually have a lot of power in any of these bills. It’s all a question of who can speak on their behalf and who is supposed to protect them from the evils of the world. And what kind of punishment for breaches is most appropriate. (Not surprisingly, none of the bills provide for funding to help schools come up to speed.)
As a youth advocate and privacy activist, I’m generally in favor of student privacy. But my panties also get in a bunch when I listen to how people imagine the work of student privacy. As is common in Congress as election cycles unfold, student privacy has a “save the children” narrative. And this forces me to want to know more about the threat models we’re talking about. What are we saving the children *from*?
Read more on Medium.
As someone who has been blogging and yelling for years about what Danah describes as the criminal justice threat model, I concur wholeheartedly. Not enough attention is paid to #4 on her list. In fact, I tend to drop out of some conversations on student privacy because some privacy advocates are so obsessed with the marketing issue in edtech that they’re ignoring the more serious problem that students are being arrested because of surveillance in schools and outside of school by school personnel – who then call in police who, in turn, do not even have to tell students any rights they may have not to answer questions.
Marketing and finance issues are important, but the inBloom crowd who are stuck on opt-in and opt-out over data collection and sharing to the exclusion of more serious life-altering student privacy issues not only risk throwing the edtech baby out with the bath water, but they need to wake up and recalibrate their priorities.
Data security is important. Data privacy is important. But a student’s risk of being sent to jail trumps both in my book. Can we deal with that issue while we talk about reforming FERPA, please?
Typo in Danah’s name corrected post-publication