Your child's permanent record?

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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Jim & Manning Peterson

In the past month, many District 97 parents have received emails from Apple Inc. informing us we need to create an Apple ID in preparation for the rollout of the 1:1 iPad technology initiative. 

While it's routine now for adults to click "I agree" to terms and conditions without reading them, we encourage all parents to consider the consequences for your child's right to privacy before deciding to consent to Apple's collection of your child's data. 

Without your explicit consent, it is illegal under federal law for Apple to collect your child's data. Both the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) restrict private corporations from collecting, storing, and using personally identifiable data of children under 13. When you sign the Apple ID consent, you waive many of your child's privacy rights under those federal laws. 

What data will be collected? D97 has already given Apple and Google at least your child's name, birth date, and parents' names and email addresses. Your child's search history, web browsing history, geo-location data, photos and videos, grades and test scores, and contents of emails and writing assignments will be collected, scanned, analyzed, and tied forever to your child. 

In school, a child may write about many personal topics: what she wants to be when she grows up; how he spent his summer vacation; an essay that argues the opposite of something they believe; a childhood trauma; a family member's battle with cancer. All that data and metadata combined are extremely valuable to marketers, future employers, colleges, insurers and others, but it belongs to your child. It shouldn't belong to any private corporation. 

"Big Data" is the collection and aggregation of many seemingly trivial data points into a meaningful "big picture." An example of big data intrusion was reported in the New York Times. Target sent a teenage girl diaper coupons based on her purchasing profile. Target knows that when that combination of items is purchased, the buyer is likely pregnant. Her father entered the store furious. Target knew a very personal truth about his daughter before her own family did. 

Data mining is already happening at D97. Three years ago, D97 began using Google Apps for Education. D97 students use a personally identifiable gmail account to write and collaborate on assignments using Google Docs, which are stored on Google Drive. As part of a California student's lawsuit against Google, Google admitted in 2013 that they were scanning and data mining every email sent via the Apps for Education program for advertising and other purposes. Following an outcry about student privacy rights, Google changed their privacy policy in April to stop data mining emails "for advertising purposes." They continue to data-mine for other purposes. Data mining is Google's core business. 

We met with Michael Arensdorff, director of IT for D97 to share our concerns about student data privacy, and he said that the switch to personally identifiable Apple IDs (they used generic IDs for students last year) would give parents "privacy choice." He told us we would have the option to change our child's name on the device, as if device personalization would somehow confuse Apple and Google's master database records. He warned us that if we did not create the Apple ID, our child's access to curriculum and his ability to participate in classroom activities would be delayed. 

A private company's privacy policy is not a law and it's not a contract. It confers no legal rights to your child and a corporation can change their privacy policy any time. Your child's data has monetary value, and corporations have an obligation to their shareholders to deliver value on their assets. If a company reincorporates outside the U.S., they may no longer be bound to U.S. law. 

Every child living in D97 is entitled to a public education. Parents should not be required by the district to forfeit their children's legal rights to privacy in exchange for their legal right to an education. Let's let kids own their own data — their mistakes and inquiries and dreams — without corporate intrusion. When they grow up, they can decide for themselves how much data about themselves they want to give away. 

We will not be creating an Apple ID for our third-grader, and we have asked D97 to cease providing personally identifiable information to Google as well.

Jim & Manning Peterson

Reader Comments

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Rebekah De Loncker from Arlington Heights  

Posted: December 9th, 2014 8:57 PM

I am so glad that you have written about this. This data storing seems so sneaky, and underhanded. Although I am not in the same district as you, my family is facing the same issues.We covered my daughters webcam, and they removed it for her while she was out of the classroom, and told her that she could not put it back on. Why would that be? That camera must be more important to them then my child's safety.


Posted: August 30th, 2014 12:25 AM

Has the district commented on this issue, or provided any sort of rebuttal to the concerns raised here?


Posted: August 15th, 2014 6:39 PM

I am surprised that more Oak Parkers don't seem to be concerned about giving control of children's information to corporations. Is it because people trust Google and Apple? Do people think the information is not sensitive?

John Abbott from Oak Park  

Posted: August 12th, 2014 9:21 PM

Many thanks, Jim & Manning, for this thoughtful and informed piece. In my opinion, the district has yet to provide any sound pedagogical argument as to why iPad minis are needed at this juncture in the classroom -- all the more given the fact that teachers and students are still struggling to process the many curriculum changes introduced by Common Core. Technology is a wonderful means to clearly defined ends, but just what ends and why remains a mystery to D-97 parents.


Posted: August 10th, 2014 10:44 AM

Thanks for submitting this and starting an important conversation. Data is valuable, privacy is important, they intersect and are at often at odds. Take a look at the rise and fall of InBloom, a company founded to collect and sort data on students nationally. Grades, med info, discipline records, economic data tied to Name, DOB and and SSN's. Offered to districts for free, without an opt out provision for parents, it would eventually cost btwn $2-5 per student. Public opposition stopped it.

Marc from River Forest  

Posted: August 9th, 2014 2:55 PM

Agreed. And I strongly suggest you cover your child's webcam with a sticker. Webcams can be hacked by third-parties to take your picture through surreptitious malware on your computer. Cheap at (Note: While this technique can ensure that it is not being used when you are not aware, keep in mind that malware, whether installed by the government or third-parties, can still own your computer and provide the attacker with logs of your activity, your location and even the keys you press.)

Winter Skye from Andersonville,Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: August 9th, 2014 1:23 PM

Ugh. When will parents wake up and pull their kids from all schools, especially public ones? They've jumped the shark, folks. Just conditoning factories.

Chris from Oak Park  

Posted: August 9th, 2014 11:03 AM

Thank you to the parents who wrote this. My kids are beginning kindergaten in D97 this fall and I am against their data being collected. Very disappointed D97 made this short sighted decision! So families are being pressured to do this, otherwise their child's "access to curriculum" will be delayed? Outrageous.

former D97 parent  

Posted: August 8th, 2014 11:52 AM

As parents consider how to respond to this issue they should also be aware that the have a right to review any and all information that is in their child's "permanent" and "temporary" student records. In the past D97 has at times told parents that some of this information is "confidential", but parent/guardian have a right to their students' records. Knowing exactly what is in your student's record is a good idea.


Posted: August 7th, 2014 6:56 AM

There's a difference between being tracked and sharing information too. Hopefully, digital natives will be taught this issue, and I bet they will do something about it.


Posted: August 6th, 2014 3:56 PM

Also, if recently it has come to light, that if you are researching a health condition, it can impact your eligibility for health insurance. One could be researching the condition simply to be informed about it or a relative had it. Data collection is even looking at with whom you tend to interact more on social media. If your FB "friends" are a credit risk, bankrupt or whatever, it affects your credit worthiness. There are so many unknown ramifications to our being tracked.


Posted: August 6th, 2014 3:51 PM

Thank you for this article. I had no idea that data would be collected on our children in schools. One would assume that schools would be sensitive to the issue of privacy for the children. Regarding the graphic, sometimes they do use an image to accompany the letter. I think the Google image is apt with a dark Apple icon in there--definitely shows the dark side of both organizations.


Posted: August 6th, 2014 10:23 AM

Kids, and most adults, do not thoroughly understand the ramifications of clicking the "Accept" button apps. People have lost jobs, kids have been suspended, and people have been spied upon by our government ( for what some think might be completely innocuous activities. It is disappointing that D97 appears to care little about our kid's privacy by forcing parents to agree to the EULA of private corporations for their children to receive an education.

Tech parent  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 9:08 AM

It's a well-thought letter, Manning. I appreciate the POV though as a dad blogger and advocate for kids and technology I'm not sure I agree. I think today's kids are much more "digital natives" and our concerns about privacy will largely be irrelevant to them as they grow up. It's just not the ind of world they live in...they're used to sharing everything. But it's still a debate, as parents, that we have in our household about privacy and what it means to live in the computer age.

Manning Peterson  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 8:41 AM

Come to think of it, I don't recall ever seeing any graphic made from stock photography in this paper-- news or editorial. Can you explain who on your staff made this graphic, and why just for our letter?

Manning Peterson  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 8:16 AM

We submitted this letter to the editor two weeks ago. I am surprised to see it run now with a goofy graphic trivializing our argument; I've never seen artwork created for a letter to the editor in the WJ. Since this was written, the Dept of Education has issued guidelines and a new website to help parents navigate the tricky terrain of student data privacy. Also in the past week, Sens. Markey and Hatch have introduced an amendment to FERPA which strengthens student data privacy protections.

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