Little Boy with tablet computer

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

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