The instances of data mining, data breaches, privacy, and security violations are numerous and frustrating. Our prediction for the future is that these instances will only get worse, and the net will grow bigger. According to a new report in The Markup, that net got bigger six years ago when a private equity firm called Vista Equity Partners started collecting data on tens of millions of American children.
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According to the report, the data collected by the private equity firm is used to “fuel” the firm’s analytics products. An example of what those analytics tools do is incorporate indicators of family wealth to predict a student’s future success.
Vista Equity Partners, which declined to comment for this story, has acquired controlling ownership stakes in some of the leading names in educational technology, including EAB, which sells a suite of college counseling and recruitment products, and PowerSchool, which dominates the market for K-12 data warehousing and analytics. PowerSchool alone claims to hold data on more than 45 million children, including 75 percent of North American K-12 students. Ellucian, a recent Vista acquisition, says it serves 26 million students. And EAB’s products are used by thousands of colleges and universities. But parents of those students say they’ve largely been left in the dark about what data the companies collect and how they use it.
“We are paying these vendors and they are making money on our kids’ data,” said Ellen Zavian, whose son was required to use Naviance, college preparation software recently acquired by PowerSchool, at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md.
After growing concerned about the questions her son was being asked to answer on Naviance-administered surveys, Zavian and other members of a local student privacy group requested access in 2019 to the data the company holds on their children from the district under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). But to date, she has received back only usernames and passwords.
The report goes on further and is worth checking out if you’re interested in the privacy and security of not only your data but the data of children.
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Last Updated on January 18, 2022.