Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Technology - Chromebooks in the Classroom - MCPS - Child Data Mining. Why care?

MCPS Tech Plan

TECHNOLOGY – Chromebooks In the Classroom

November 12, 2014
Dear Superintendent Starr,                                                                                  
After my messages with you and your assistants went unanswered over the past month, I am writing this letter in hope that you contact me to set up a Technology Town Hall meeting to answer many questions some of your parents are asking and your staff has yet to answer.
As a parent of a 3rd grader in Montgomery County, I too was excited to see computers being rolled out to my child. It would allow children to engage online while opening up the opportunity to advancing on an e-learning platform. 
With a goal to understand and support the effort, I asked some questions to the County official (Kara Trenkamp) in charge of the roll-out.  Specifically, what privacy protection is in place, what pre-launch plan was implemented, and what does success to this initiative look like?
It is at that time I began to get the run around – and consequently, asked for an in person meeting at our school (PBES) with your Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Sherwin Collette.  
Approximately 50 parents showed up and we asked questions on the roll out.  Unfortunately, most of the questions went unanswered and promised material was never sent to the parents.  Upon personal observation while visiting my son’s classroom and/or reviewing my son’s Google Apps for Education account, I witnessed:
1.      Ads from Google and Kahn Academy in my son’s Gmail account, 
2.      Ads from Google in the Teacher’s account being shown to all students on the Promethean board in the classroom,
3.      Links to Google Shopping and Google Wallet freely accessible by my son with his name prefilled in the app,
4.      Camera easily accessible by students, and
5.      Access to an adult Google Dictionary (that had ‘sexual intercourse’ as a definition for ‘Congress’) and YouTube with access to Pornography, to name just a few.

After requesting, via FOIA, the County and Google contracts and agreements, I have concluded that Google is allowed, 100%, to collect any and all data (data mining) on my child (and yours).  You may ask ,”Why does this matter?”

Double Dipping: Behavioral data mining collected by Google is very valuable to their sales force.  Google is also benefiting from the sale of their educational technology software to our kids, with sales in 2013 reaching nearly $8 Billion, according to the Software and Information Industry Association. Lastly, this is a primary reason for Google spending millions on lobbying against any bill that would prohibit collecting child data.

For the parents reading this letter, imagine this:  Google’s data mined your child’s online behavior for 12 years (k-12 grades) and now your child is applying for colleges.  Google sells all of your child’s 12 years of behavior to the college, so they can determine if your child is worth accepting.  Furthermore, once your child has graduated and is seeking a job, his/her potential employers purchase Google’s data mined on your child to determine if they should be hired.  Lastly, they finally have enough money to buy a house and car… and Google sells the bank and auto insurance company the Google data mined on your child.  The bank and auto insurance company will utilize this past behavior data to determine the risk of lending, interest rate to access, and auto premiums.


It is my goal to protect my son’s electronic footprint and private data until he is old enough to make wiser decisions, it is my goal to use his school time wisely, and it is my desire to provide the teachers with the proper training needed to determine measureable success goals. After-all, according to Collette, “[data mining] is the bogeyman of the moment,"

I am hoping you may have the same goals and provide us an opportunity to get some clear answers on this matter and get that bogeyman out of our classroom.    
Ellen M. Zavian, Parent

Additional Supportive Information
Parents in other states have already taken back their child’s privacy rights (i.e.: Colorado, California, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, RI, Maine, Virginia and more). Parents in Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Potomac, and Howard County have already reached out and expressed their concerns me..   Some parents have asked MCPS to answer these three questions:
1.       What privacy protections has MCPS implemented for our students?
2.       What does success look like with the roll out of the technology and new curriculum?
3.       How will MCPS prepare the schools, teachers, and students to utilize the technology correctly?
Based on the FOIA documents (contracts, printed policies, and agreements) and public information, here are the answers:
Privacy  1. Few protections are in place for MCPS students and their families.
a.        Google’s education platform privacy policy for students is the same privacy policy used in its consumer services  and it can be changed at anytime, by Google, without notice.
b.      Google has already been caught misleading parents about scanning student emails for advertising purposes.
c.       Google refuses to state whether it is scanning student emails to create user profiles for commercial purposes.
d.      Google refuses to sign a weak industry backed student privacy pledge that would hold them accountable to protect student privacy.
e.       Google has been fined tens of millions of dollars for intentionally violating user privacy multiple times.
f.       Google is mining all types of data on your child: words in emails, websites visited, videos viewed, etc… and this behavior may then be sold to advertisers and/or used for other commercial purposes.
g.       Google is not purging any of this collected data and may sell it in the future (i.e. to insurance companies, banks, college admission boards, potential employers), to help third parties make decisions  based on 13 +years of data collected (K – 12 grades) that may discriminate against students and families.
h.      Google is placing products and services  under the ‘Shopping’ button that are geared towards your child’s behavior.  Your child has full access to Google ‘Shopping’ and Google’s ‘Wallet’.
i.        Google’s word dictionary is used by your child.  It is an adult dictionary (including sexual intercourse, etc…), not age appropriate.
j.        Google has connected YouTube to our students’ school accounts and based on my search of sex, drugs, etc our children are being exposed to inappropriate content.
k.      Although we were told only persons with MCPS email extensions can email your child (ie: high school students can freely email grammar school students), Google and Kahn Academy are both emailing your child regularly.
l.        The Chromebook has a camera, which allows Google to use facial recognition software on any photos stored on Chromebook/sent via email, which is valuable to potential advertisers/customers.
m.    Google’s advertisements appear on the teacher’s screen regularly, which is projected on the front board of the classroom (Promethean board) for your child to see daily.
Success   2.  No quantitative data has been provided by MCPS on what success/goals looks like.
a.       MCPS’ Chief Technology Officer, Sherwin Collette and Dr. Kara Trenkamp, Director/Dpt. Of Instructional Technology stated that no quantitative goals have been put in place [quantitative examples:  5% increase in reading, 3% in math scores over a 3 year period].
b.      No goals to reach, then no vision, plan, strategic planning…. And, thus, MCPS cannot determine failure.
c.       No studies were conducted on the best age/grade to rollout the technology. 
 Prepare  3.  Lack of preparation is evident.
a.       Typing lessons were not taught to students prior to rollout of technology.
b.      Lack of parent meetings by MCPS, prior to technology rollout.
c.       Lack of strategic plan details shared with parents.
d.      No budget numbers on training has been provided, even though requested.

1.       State of Maryland’s efforts to pass a Child Data Protection Act in 2014
a.       Maryland Delegate Kaiser, while serving as Chair of the Educational Subcommittee, sponsored the 2014 bill, entitled “Education – Student Data Privacy Act 2014”. (recording of hearing).
b.      Google lobbied strongly against this Bill. Ultimately it did not have enough votes to pass.

2.      State of California – enacted the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act in 2014, restricting the collection, storage and usage of child data by technology software companies. According to the NY Times:  
“….Technology companies are collecting a vast amount of data about students, touching every corner of their educational lives — with few controls on how those details are used.
Now California is poised to become the first state to comprehensively restrict how such information is exploited by the growing education technology industry.
Legislators in the state passed a law last month prohibiting educational sites, apps and cloud services used by schools from selling or disclosing personal information about students from kindergarten through high school; from using the children’s data to market to them; and from compiling dossiers on them. The law is a response to growing parental concern that sensitive information about children — like data about learning disabilities, disciplinary problems or family trauma — might be disseminated and disclosed, potentially hampering college or career prospects. Although other states have enacted limited restrictions on such data, California’s law is the most wide-ranging.
New York Times:
USA Today:

3.      State of Colorado – efforts to pass a Child Data Protection Policy in 2014
a.      January, 2014, Colorado’s Department of Education passed the Information Security and Privacy Data Policy – to further protect students from data mining by technology software companies.
b.      In June, 2014, Colorado Governor signed the House Bill 14-1294, to further protect the children of Colorado in K-12 grades:

“….The privacy of our children is critically important, especially in
regard to their K-12 educational experience and the student data collected
during this time. Schools are a safe environment, and an important component of maintaining security is ensuring student privacy and
protecting student data….”

4.      Existing federal and state privacy laws such as FERPA and COPPA have not kept up with technology and do not adequately protect K-12 students.  Experts from around the country have stated our students need stronger privacy protections:


  1. See also
    Two weeks ago, 16-year-old Alex Lee was your run-of-the-mill teenager.
    He woke up at 7 for school. He loved playing soccer. He got into trouble for not taking out the trash. His small bedroom in Frisco, Tex., was a mess: clothes strewn all over the floor, unmade bed, posters of a Mustang GT hung on the walls. He had 144 Twitter followers.
    Then on Sunday, Nov. 2, that all changed. After going to church, Alex’s father dropped him off at 10 a.m. at the SuperTarget on Eldorado Parkway where he works. Alex clocked in for his shift, turned off his cellphone as the battery was low, and took his place behind the cash register.

  2. Don't hold your breath waiting to get a response from Starr. He does whatever he wants to do whenever he wishes to do it.

  3. When I realized that my kids weren't in the grades targeted to get computers this year, I was VERY pleased about that, and this is one of the reasons why. Good to know this additional information.

  4. These Chromebooks also expose our children to microwave radiation. 30 kids = 30 Wireless radiation devices. One industrial router that is the equivalent of a cell tower in the classroom.
    You cannot see or hear the radiation but it is there.
    Full body radiation. I'm not kidding! Wish I did not know it! And every parent should be aware that scientists are warning parents to reduce their child's exposure because a lifetime of exposure could mean cancer and immune damage. Educate yourself at


  6. And don't forget this site: for tracking schoolkids behavior.

  7. Check this out:


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