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Data mining children’s data

June 29, 2015

I was interviewed for an article entitled No Child Left Un-Mined? Student Privacy At Risk In The Age Of Big Data by journalist Farai Chideya, who writes for The Intercept along with Glenn Greenwald and other impressive people.

Here’s the article, I think it came out pretty well and I’d be grateful for your thoughts.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Duncan
    June 29, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    The troubling part is how unregulated this space is. There’s no limit to what can be traded in the market, even the abstract; take, for example, the traded quantification of credit (i.e. the credit default swap). If, for example, you can put a number on the ability of a company to service its debt, so too you can put a number on whether it could “service” its R&D: “is this project, to which we’ve been investing in its development, paying off? let’s take a closer look at out customer. let’s look at the data.”

    Especially with regards to R&D, data comes with an opportunity cost; this is undoubtedly a consideration among, say, healthcare companies whose investment in R&D is a fraction of that in acquisitions. The value of this data can range from the mundane, e.g. an Average Jane’s “cookies”, to the valuable, e.g. a billionaire’s browsing history or the social security numbers of an entire school district.


  2. June 29, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Cathy, I think that this article hits points really well. It has always seemed curious to me why FERPA or similar protections do not share more with HIPPA. As a researcher who sometimes uses health data, it seems that HIPPA seems to strike the least-bad option of data sharing and privacy. One assumes privacy, but allows exceptions for linked organizations and businesses to share under relatively strict regulations. Hospitals and others have also gotten good at making data anonymous for data analysis, which often sit outside of HIPPA requirements but inside Institutional Review Board requirements.

    Something similar could be constructed for FERPA in which carve-outs can be created for researchers; but, penalties for violating privacy protections would be severe (as they are for HIPPA).


  3. chris
    June 30, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    I am thrilled that you are one of a few voices that consistently hits the points that many others ignore–notably that the impulse towards surveillance and persistent tracking in education, and an effort to “win” education, are largely led by white, male technologists, and largely aimed at certain classes and not others. It helps that you are a person who understands “data” and what can and can’t be done using data. Keep it up.


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