The continued surveillance of poor black kids
There’s a new data-driven app out there called Kinvolved, featured this morning in the New York Times, and it’s exactly my worst fear. It tracks Harlem school children’s whereabouts, sending text messages to parents when they are tardy or absent from school.
When you look at the user agreement, it seems to say that the data is relatively safe and presumably not available for resale to marketers, but they also say they are allowed to change the agreement at any time.
Here’s my specific fear: what about when they go out of business? I’m thinking the data might be valuable at that point, and their investors might want some money back. And there’s a market, too: data brokers would love to get their grubby little hands on such data to add a layer to their profiles of poor black and brown kids.
This is a situation where FERPA, which is the federal child privacy law, is clearly not strong enough. Right now FERPA allows Kinvolved to be designated as “school officials” who have a “legitimate interest” in using and accessing any education records. And once they have that data, I don’t think there are real constraints to its use.
I’m not singling out Kinvolved for bad intentions; for all I know they mean well and they might even help some kids and families. But I don’t think the data the app is generating is being adequately protected, and it is yet again data concerning the nation’s most vulnerable population.