Minnesota Online Academies Sell Children’s Personal Information? The Dangers of Selling Human Capital



Minnesota Online Academies Sell Children’s Personal Information?  The Dangers of Selling Human Capital                                  by Linda Bell

MACC learned a great deal about the dangerous uses of student data through our work on the Student Data Privacy Act over the last four years.  Students are placed in a very risky situation as their personal information is falling into inimical hands. Schools along with their 3rd party online providers are knowingly allowing students’ information to be sold as human capital and by all accounts as a way to appease tech and ed tech providers. Talk to your school’s technology director now and demand to see the third-party contracts.  There should be 35 to 45 annually.  If passed, our bill to protect public and private school’s student privacy will not take effect until the 2019-2020 school year.  Thus, parent beware!

What data is collected?

 Data collected from online curriculum providers, online storage systems, apps and include name, photo, address, phone, email, bus stop as well as feelings, opinions and values collected via hundreds of surveys embedded in online curriculum and other technology storage retainers.

What happens to that data?

 The sharing and selling, especially the selling, of data is pure gold for technology and other online businesses.  Many tech companies earn more money off the sharing/selling of personal data than the products they offer.  Personal student information can be sold over and over.  Data is used for advertising and targeted marketing and identity theft.  However, many more nefarious practices are connected with student data like pedophilia and sex slavery.  Using student private information is the business of Human Capital.

US Department of Education: Do not share or sell PII. US DOE rules against a school and technology provider for first time since 2012.

In January 2018, we learned of a recent violation of the federal FERPA law by the Agora Cyber-Charter School and their contracted online curriculum provider, K12, Inc.  The US Department of Education determined that, “Agora had entered into a third-party contract constituting an unlawful forfeiture of a parent’s right under FERPA to protect against unauthorized disclosure of personally identifiable information from her child’s education record.”

 About privacy statements/terms of service

 The US DOE ruling was published in November 2017.  According to the K12, Inc’s own 2018 website, their privacy statement or terms of service have not changed.  K12s terms of service policy continues to state, “By posting or submitting Member Content to this Site, you grant K12 and its affiliates and licensees the right to use, reproduce, display, perform, adapt, modify, distribute, have distribute, and promote the content in any form, anywhere and for any purpose.”

 Are there violations in Minnesota?

Since the most recent privacy statement/terms of service of K12, Inc. remains constant even in the face of a US DOE ruling, schools and students in Minnesota are also at risk.  The short answer is unless the school has negotiated the contract and amended the contract to protect children. K12, Inc works a great deal with “online academies.”  The following research was conducted on the K12, Inc. website, a foreign business.

Minnesota Virtual Academy, Houston Public Schools

Insight MN, Brooklyn Center

IQ Minnesota, Fergus Falls

Minnesota Online Academy, Statewide

Link12 Lakeville, Lakeville Schools

VIBE Academy, Statewide

K12 International Academy, Worldwide

The Keystone School, Worldwide

George Washington Univ. Online High School, Worldwide

All of these online schools utilize K12, Inc. for curriculum and therefore, are subject to the contract language of K12.  IF these schools are not negotiating their 3rd party contract with K12, Inc, they too are in violation of federal law.

What other violations of law in Minnesota?

 K12, Inc. is but one example which is miniscule in relation to the universe of enumerable third-party contractors and click-wrap agreements working with schools.  All public schools used online curriculum, online testing, online screening and other online education resources.  All are data collectors.  Schools are working with tens of thousands of online providers.

Minnesota needs good foundational protections for toddlers through teens.  Children have no voice at the table. Data selling begins in early education (2 and 3 year olds).  We are ever hopeful that the adults in our society – our parents, teachers and legislators will take the stand to protect children’s identities and, in some cases, their very lives.  Please contact your constituent legislator (senator and representative) to support “Rep. Lucero’s HF 1507.”

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