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John White and InBloom: It Ain’t Over, Folks

April 22, 2013

On Friday, April 19, I wrote a post regarding John White’s supposedly pulling out of student data storage with the Gates-and-Murdoch-associated nonprofit, InBloom. Since that time, I added an update to my original post, which I will reproduce here for those who might have missed it:

UPDATE 04-20-13:

Fellow Louisiana blogger crazycrawfish (former LDOE manager of data) has included this information in this post:

“John White unwittingly sent us a file for yet another (third?) data aggregator he shared student data with and did not run by BESE. You see, these xml files look like they came from and/or go to Ed-Fi if you read the header for this file. Ed-Fi is yet another data aggregation company owned by a different set of billionaires, Michael and Susan Dell. …

“To summarize this set of emails (pdf available in post): it appears the Louisiana Department of Education was sending data to Ed-Fi too, long before inBloom.”

White is apparently involved in a number of data sharing “partnerships.”

Thus, to date, White has unwittingly demonstrated that he is sharing data with InBloom, Agilix, and Ed-Fi.

None of these arrangements has been approved by BESE (Louisiana’s state education board).

An interesting comment from my first post concerns a relationship between Agilix and InBloom for the purpose of data sharing associated with Louisiana’s (not legally funded) Course Choice program:

In February 2013, Agilix boasted ”tapping into InBloom” in order to “give Louisiana Course Choice ready access to major data.”  Keep in mind that “course choice” is currently neither legally funded nor clearly regulated. But would-be providers could already have “ready access to major data.”

Agilix “tapped into” InBloom. Keep that in mind.

Next, consider the Twitter message that I included in my first post, a message in which InBloom denied any cancellation of the data storing arrangement with Louisiana, noting that the information in the Monroe News-Star email interview with White, where White “says he is withdrawing Louisiana student information from a non-profit database,” that database being (and the point of focus of the article) InBloom, is somehow in error:

57inBloom @inBloomEdu 2h

.@frankcatalano @audreywatters Louisiana still part of inBloom community. Many inaccuracies in coverage

Contrast the content of this Twitter message from InBloom with the content of White’s email to superintendents and BESE board members the evening before the Monroe News-Star was to be published:

04/18/2013 06:16 PM

Members:

At Wednesday’s meeting we heard some compelling testimony regarding the state’s and school districts’ data storage practices. It’s an issue worth continued discussion with the board.

The data storage agreement with the inBloom database was undertaken with caution and a sense of responsibility. However, because of the concerns expressed by some parents, and because we have not yet had an in-depth discussion with the board and public about data storage at the agency or district level, I think that it is best for now that we withdraw student information from the inBloom database. I have told our staff to do so and have informed inBloom of our decision. [Emphasis added.]

We have protected student information for decades and take security very seriously. Given the concerns expressed by our most important constituents — students and families — I’d like a chance to discuss our policies and procedures with you before we enter into new relationships with partners providing this service.

Thanks as always for your time. Have a great weekend.

John

John White

Louisiana Department of Education
Twitter @LouisianaSupe

White writes that he has “informed InBloom of ‘our’ decision” to “withdraw student information from the InBloom database.” Yet InBloom responds that coverage is “inaccurate.”

I just realized today what “coverage’ that might be.  I originally thought that InBloom was noting that White’s communicating a change in agreement was the “inaccuracy.”  The disagreement about change in agreement is true. But the InBloom tweet notes “Many inaccuracies.”

One such “inaccuracy” involves what data was being stored.  In his interview with the Monroe News-Star, White reported the following:

In an email to The News-Star, White said that “the only student info we are storing in this garage: local student ID, first name, last name, gender, date of birth, ethnicity and race.”

Note that according to White, “the only information” does not include social security numbers (SSNs).

Apparently, the Monroe News-Star story has caused quite the stir for InBloom. In an email from InBloom to an InBloom pilot in another state, an InBloom official writes about the situation in Louisiana in order to clarify the “inaccuracies”:

An article was published this morning [Friday, April 19, 2013] that had a number of inaccuracies about Louisiana’s continued involvement with inBloom.  I wanted to reach out and give you some additional context. 

 Last month, we learned that Louisiana was utilizing SSN as their local student ID for enrollment for their Course Choice platform which is currently leveraging inBloom services.  We have since been working with the LADOE team to expedite the rollout of a new state-wide student ID.  The Louisiana team felt it best to suspend their use of inBloom services while they assess long-term alternatives to storing SSN’s in inBloom.  We are supportive of this decision given our sensitivity to hosting SSN’s, as described in the Software as a Service Agreements we have already signed with several of you.  Louisiana is the only state or district partner where SSN’s were a concern.  Louisiana remains part of the inBloom consortium and is evaluating the path toward reconnecting the data services in a time and manner aligned with their state instructional improvement goals[Emphasis added.]

InBloom has access to student social security numbers.  Even though InBloom writes that it is “working… to expedite… a new state-wide student ID,” this does not change the fact that InBloom had access to SSNs even though John White lied (surprising, huh?) to the Monroe News-Star about what data was being stored with InBloom. Furthermore, in “tapping into” InBloom for the purpose of data for student enrollment in Course Choice, Agilix would have been able to access these SSNs.

Another “inaccuracy” involves John White’s leading the public to believe that he suspended InBloom services due to public outcry. However, according to this email from an InBloom official, the suspension was only until “alternatives to storing SSNs” could be determined.

Did White lie to the Monroe News-Star about what data was being stored then try to effect system of lies whereby he played both the public and InBloom?  Did White tell the public, “The deal with InBloom is off because I hear your concerns” and tell InBloom, “Let’s suspend InBloom use until we remove the SSNs”?

From the content of the InBloom email above, it sure sounds like InBloom was never told that the “partnership” between LDOE and InBloom was “withdrawn, period.”  And it certainly does not sound like White told InBloom that any suspension was the result of public concerns.  But do reread the end of White’s email to superintendents and BESE. White writes about “entering into new relationships with partners providing this [data storage and management] service.”  White is trying to leave the door open while seeming to yield to public concerns.

In short, White has not changed his intent to share student data.

Keep in mind that White has at least three data sharing “relationships” in force at this time, none of which is BESE approved.

This sure sounds like the way White works based upon his “muddy the narrative” emails, in which White scrambled after the fact in a flurry of emails to make his lie of “due diligence” in voucher school selection appear true.

I have more information on the LDOE saga, information concerning lawsuits filed in response to LDOE’s withholding data and allegedly violating open meetings laws.  But I need to grade some papers now.

Stay tuned.

10 Comments
  1. Since the inBloom codebase is (supposed to be made) open source, it isn’t even clear what purpose giving the data to the inBloom non-profit to keep on the servers THEY rent from Amazon is supposed to have. If everyone gets sufficiently upset about all this, Louisiana can just rent the servers from Amazon themselves and run the same code, and do the same commercial data sharing without the middleman. Right?

  2. Ellen Lubic permalink

    Thanks for keeping me in the loop on this vital issue. So glad you are staying focused on the greed merchants invasion of students’ privacy. I am with you all the way and am working in LA, and statewide, with colleagues and legislators to promote the issue and get the media to follow up. Dell, Gates, Google, and those others have crossed so far over the line that it must be published so the public can ascertain how dangerous this invasion of privacy will be in perpetuity. The use of our most private info, our SSN, is an outrage.

    In this same arena of loss of privacy, I find that all our comments to each other on Diane’s blog are published online for all the world to find. Those of us in the cross hairs of the Tea Partiers, such as I (for promoting in public talks single payer universal health care) are now open to harassment. I already have gotten a few unseemly comments to my regular email address. Everything about us is now there for all the world to see…and we are all too easy to target. Do not want my 3 year old grandchild in this pool of unwitting victims of free speech.

    I always learn from your comments.

    Ellen Lubic elubic@aol.com

  3. It’s 11 o’clock — Do you know where your child’s data is?

  4. Thank you so much for keeping the public informed. I am a teacher and know what is going on in the state. Too many people have their heads in the sand and don’t want to believe these despicable acts are actually happening. All I can say is people WAKE UP! Bobby and John White will stop at nothing to get their agenda pushed through. Follow the MONEY!

  5. Bryan Alleman permalink

    I wonder if inBloom keeps a ‘black-list database’ where the ‘deleted’ student data goes….it is rumored facebook has one of these for profiles & pictures that are deleted. Gone but not forgotten?? Remember, their own website admits they give no guarantees.

  6. George Buzzetti permalink

    If they already have it anyone heard of a copy and they certainly have one. They are corporatist privatizers and they never give up profit making potential. Just transfer it to another location preferably out of the U.S. and so what. You have to stop it before it gets to them.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Did Louisiana Drop Out of inBloom, or Not? | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Did Louisiana Drop Out of inBloom, or Not? ← NPE News Briefs
  3. Wresting the Public’s Rights: Lawsuits Against White, LDOE et al. ← NPE News Briefs

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