California

Parents Worry as California Schools Set to Release Kids’ Personal Data

A lawsuit, a massive amount of data, and your children are at the heart of what could be a growing controversy.

A California group called the Concerned Parent Association has won, in court, the right to data collected through the years by the California Department of Education about students from grades K-12.

The CPA won the case after claiming that the State's public schools have improperly treated students with disabilities, in some cases denying them the education they need. The CDE denies the charges, but admits it has to turn the data over.

And that's where things get controversial.

"We understand the desire to provide redress to an underserved population," said Eva Velasquez, President of the Identity Theft Resource Center. "However, the right to privacy for all students cannot be dismissed."

That data could include names, addresses and Social Security numbers.

Kids and privacy is always a sticky situation. Because kids have Social Security numbers, for example, they're prime targets for identity thieves, because the young people don't even access their Social Security statements for many years. The fact that these kids are public school students means the state is in charge of informing parents of the court's decision. That alone is a tough task.

The CPA says the data will be protected, and someone called a "Special Master" will be appointed to oversee the transfer of data and to keep things private. The group insists its goal is not to violate student's privacy, but to ensure that students - especially disabled students - are getting the education they deserve.

An important point for parents who are concerned about their children's data is this: An opt-out clause. You can get more information on how to opt out, by visiting the California Department of Education website: http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/di/ws/documents/form2016jan26.pdf

Scott tracks tech & privacy on Twitter: @scottbudman

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