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Feds issue 6 data, privacy recommendations

Student data should be used only for educational purposes, report says

WH-data [1]A new White House report on privacy and data collection says the mass collection of information is “saving lives” but calls for additional safeguards in how personal information is stored and collected.

The report, issued Thursday, is the result of a three-month review led by White House adviser John Podesta and administration officials. President Barack Obama called for the assessment of so-called “big data” amid pressure over revelations about U.S. spy agencies collecting data on phone records.

The review did not focus on collecting data for intelligence, however, opting instead to review policies in other government agencies, the private sector and education.

(Next page: Six data privacy recommendations)

“As more data is collected, analyzed, and stored on both public and private systems, we must be vigilant in ensuring that balance is maintained between government and citizens, and revise our laws accordingly,” the report said [2].

The document praises the use of big data to assist in disaster recovery and in medicine, and describes the expansion of analytics as a potential economic boon to the United States.

But it also outlines six policy recommendations to the president:

  1. Advance the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights
  2. Pass national data breach legislation
  3. Extend privacy protections to non-U.S. persons
  4. Ensure data collected on students in school is used for educational purposes
  5. Expand technical expertise to stop discrimination
  6. Amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act

“We must prevent new modes of discrimination that some uses of big data may enable, particularly with regard to longstanding civil rights protections in housing, employment and credit,” according to a synopsis of the report.

The White House said the Commerce Department would take the lead on crafting legislation and policy related to the issues.

“We applaud the Obama Administration and special counsel John Podesta for recognizing the implications of big data on Americans, particularly kids and families,” said Common Sense Media’s CEO and founder, Jim Steyer, in a statement. “The development of social, mobile and educational technologies have created exciting and immersive environments for young people resulting in a proliferation of sensitive digital data about them. Today’s report is a major statement from the White House that as the internet continues to become a source of learning, innovation and economic growth, the privacy and security of our nation’s kids will be a national priority.”

The report comes on the heels of an announcement that InBloom, a data analytics company with contracts in New York State and a handful of other states across the nation, planned to close down operations.

A number of states decided to cease their relationships with the company shortly before the April announcement, with many citing parents’ privacy concerns over what student data would be collected and how it would be used.

“…We have realized that this concept is still new, and building public acceptance for the solution will require more time and resources than anyone could have anticipated,” write InBloom CEO Iwan Streichenberger on the company’s website. “Therefore, in full alignment with the inBloom Board of Directors and funders, I have made the decision to wind down the organization over the coming months. It wasn’t an easy decision, and the unavailability of this technology is a real missed opportunity for teachers and school districts seeking to improve student learning.”

(c)2014 Tribune Co., with additional reporting by eSchool News. Visit Tribune Co. at www.latimes.com [3]. Distributed by MCT Information Services.