This article continues addressing the OSPI and The Seattle Times data deal that was written about in State Data Deal with Media Should Alarm You.
KOUW’s article State Deal to Give Media Organizations Student Data Alarms Privacy Experts says:
OSPI told KUOW the data would be “de-identified,” meaning it would not include names of students or staff.
“We didn’t ask for any confidential information, and nor do we want any,” said Seattle Times investigations editor Jim Neff.
Robin Munson, who oversees testing and student information for the state, said the requested data has not yet been given to the Times. She said that by removing the names, the data release would comply with state and federal student privacy laws.
Robin Munson is Assistant Superintendent of Assessment and Student Information at OSPI. It appears she, or her office, has provided assurances that the data OSPI provides The Times will not include names of students or staff. While that is a nice assurance, the actual agreement allows for confidential student information to be released. Since I doubt neither OSPI nor The Seattle Times will show us the data that Is provided we only have their assurances. Part of their assurance is in stating the agreement and deal is in compliance with FERPA. Parents would be well served if OSPI and The Seattle Times would fully disclose the details of FERPA compliance. FERPA does very little, if anything, to meaningfully protect student privacy and saying that something is in compliance with FERPA doe little more that appease parents and the public who don’t know any better.
Someone seems to be providing inaccurate information. Are the inaccuracies in KUOW’s reporting or in what OSPI is saying? The data deal agreement itself allows for things OSPI says is not happening with regard to what data may be provided to The Times. If certain data is not going to be provided perhaps the agreement should clearly reflect which data will and will not be provided. The data deal agreement does not do that. Instead, the agreement is wide open with regard to the confidential information OSPI may release to The Times.
The agreement authorizes the release of confidential information to The Seattle Times. The agreement goes on to say what the term “confidential information” includes but is not limited to. This information appears in items 1 and 2 on the first page of the agreement.
Here is a list of some (but not all) of the data Item 2 in the agreement allows OSPI to release to The Times:
- Student names
- The name of a staff/student’s parent or other family members
- Staff/student addresses
- The address of a staff/student’s family
- Personal identifiers such as a social security number or student number or staff/certification number
- Personal characteristics that would make a staff/student’s identity easily traceable
- Any combination of information that would make a staff/student’s identity easily traceable
The above is some of the information stated in the agreement that OSPI may release to The Times. How do you “de-identify” this information? Do you provide it and say you didn’t? Sure, they may be able to say this is in full compliance with the new FERPA regulations, but does that make it okay?
Concerns parents and experts have about the data allowed in this agreement being matched with other data sources to identify individual students is misguided, if not misinformed. Since the agreement allows OSPI to provide The Times with student, family, and staff names and addresses, all individuals are already identified. If they provide all of the information the agreement allows, there will be no need for data matching to identify individual students. Won’t that be nice? That can save some time and effort. This data could then be used to match data to identify individuals in other data sets.
A copy of the agreement is provided at the end of KUOW’s article. You may also download the agreement by clicking here.
This issues surrounding this data deal agreement and other related student privacy issues brings a lot of questions to the surface. Watch for more posts where those questions are raised.
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