Browsing articles in "Data Collection and Data Privacy"
Sep 21, 2019

Talking Points Against the SAFE HOME Proposal of High Tech Red Flagging 

A new agency called the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA), under the umbrella of the Department of Health and Human Services is being discussed at the White House to promote research on complex health problems including gun violence and mass shootings. According to the Washington Post[1] , HARPA would include a $40-60 million project called “SAFE HOME” — “Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes.” This would use data from Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home and data collected by health-care providers like fMRIs, tractography and image analysis to identify “neurobehavioral signs” of “someone headed toward a violent explosive act.” The article noted the president’s interest in HARPA overall, but was not sure that he was briefed on the SAFE HOME aspect. HARPA would require congressional approval.

While grateful for the president’s desire to work on the issue of mass shootings, these SAFE HOME types of efforts have been historically ineffective[2]and would pose grave dangers to constitutional rights and privacy:

  • There are no known standardized neurobehavioral signs of violence specifically or of mental illness in general. Artificial intelligence is only as good as the algorithms it uses.
  • A 2016 study from the American Psychiatric Association[3] showing that “mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides” and “the overall contribution of people with serious mental illness to violent crimes is only about 3%.”
  • Despite thousands of studies there is no evidence regarding genetic and neurological chemical imbalances for mental illness.[4]
  • This research will do nothing to examine the known connection between psychiatric drugs and violence.[5]
  • Mental-health diagnostic criteria are readily admitted by experts[6]to be subjective and difficult to use, especially in children and teens, who are all undergoing rapid developmental changes.
  • Psychiatric experts trained for years readily admit that their efforts to predict which patients will become violent are only slightly better than chance, saying things like “But unfortunately, it’s impossible for any of us to predict who is going to go from being troubled and isolated to actually harming others”[7]
  • Mental screening is notoriously inaccurate, with one commonly used instrument having an 85% false-positive rate.[8]
  • Even though this is discussed as a research project currently, give both the federal government’s and Google’s extremely poor record on data privacy, this subjective data, used the wrong way, could have life-altering consequences for people throughout their lives not only affecting 2nd Amendment rights, but 1st Amendment rights, freedom of conscience, higher education and employment.
  • There is also the known anti-gun and general anti-conservative bias of Google and of many thought leaders within the psychiatric profession.[9]

UPDATE – White House domestic policy sources have stated that HARPA is not going to happen, but this research project must be opposed and never funded:

A PDF version of this document is available at Talking Points Against the SAFE HOME Proposal of High Tech Red Flagging.


[2]These failures include the National Institutes of Mental Health in the 1990s (, France in 2007 (, the University of Minnesota ( and now in Texas (


[4]Faraone et al. (2008). The New Neuropsychiatric Genetics. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B (Neuropsychiatric Genetics) 147B, 1–2 and Lacasse, J. & Leo, J. (2005) PLoS Medicine




[8]The Columbia Suicide Screen has a false-positive rate of 84 percent. ( 8567(09)61129-1/fulltext) This percentage is obtained by subtracting the low positive predictive values, which mean that a person actually has the condition being tested or screened, from 100 percent.


Parents Beware: “School Climate Surveys” Pose Many Threats to Students

This article written for The National Pulse by Dr. Karen Effrem takes a look at “School Climate Surveys” which are the tools by which SEL educational learning systems gather data and the problems which these surveys pose for American students.

A recent article by Joy Pullmann in The Federalist demonstrates just how nosy and invasive “school climate surveys” have become. These surveys are now a cornerstone of the implementation of social-emotional learning (SEL) programs in the nation’s public schools and have also been found in Common Core-aligned state tests and (illegally) in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The surveys make use of extremely vague and subjective questions, such as these examples from the Massachusetts state test:

As noted by Pullmann, another such survey used in the Austin (Texas) Independent School District usurps parental autonomy and asks the particularly invasive and controversial question about gender identity, defining gender as how a person feels about their biological sex:

The problems with these surveys are myriad. Here are just a few:

Asking questions about difficult behavior can actually increase the behavior.

Pullmann interviewed me for The Federalist piece, and one of the major problems I addressed is that survey questions may stimulate thoughts about and increase negative behaviors:

“Yet ‘Whether it’s comprehensive sex education or a survey, if you’re bringing stuff like that [sexuality] up you are potentially creating upset or conflict or just planting the idea’ in young minds that may not be developmentally ready for it, said pediatrician and education researcher Karen Effrem in a phone interview about Austin’s survey. Research suggests that simply asking questions about specific behaviors, such as teen suicide or drug use, increases those behaviors.”

The questions are developmentally inappropriate.

A related problem is that this gender question in the survey was given to third graders — children as young as 8 to 9 years old. Expert psychiatric opinion notes the psychological dangers of raising difficult issues like this with young children who are not developmentally ready to handle it. For example, psychiatrist William McGrath, M.D. said:

“There is a phase of personality development called the latency period, during which the healthy child is not interested in sex. This interval from about the age of five until adolescence serves a very important biological purpose. It affords a child an opportunity to develop his own resources, his beginning physical and mental strength. Premature interest in sex is unnatural and will arrest or distort the development of the personality. Sex education should not be foisted on children. . .”

The the full article can viewed on The National Pulse’s website.


Jan 11, 2019

Anti-Privacy Database Bill Set to Become Law without Trump Veto

This article written by Dr. Karen Effrem for The National Pulse is an alert regarding a new bill in the House that will invade student’s privacy.

HR 4174, the privacy-crushing de facto national database bill discussed here earlier this week and recently at Townhall, will become law as early as tomorrow, January 12th, without a presidential veto. Economic and privacy experts are gravely concerned about this bill due to its potential to expand the welfare state and planned economy and an increased vulnerability of government data to hacking. This will also affect our children due to the ever-expanding mountain of data collected on them through education technology and state longitudinal databases as well as the weakening of FERPA, the federal privacy law.

Although much is happening with the border crisis and the government shutdown, concerned citizens must keep up the pressure. A new way to raise awareness is to take a few minutes to share these 50 tweetsprovided by our friends at Patriot Journalist to explain how dangerous this data mining legislation really is and then to alert your friends. You may also continue to email the president here. (The White House comment line is not taking calls due to the shutdown.)

Other details are available at these resources:

Stop FEPA Facebook Page

Rebuttal to House Staff “Myths and Facts” on HR 4174

Summary of HR 4174/S 2046, The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act

Parent Activists: Data-Sharing ‘Grinch’ Bill Will Create ‘De Facto National Database’” by Dr. Susan Berry at Breitbart

What is FEPA?

Radio Interview on FEPA by Dr. Karen Effrem with the American Family Association of Pennsylvania

Radio Interview on HR 4174 by Dr. Mary Byrne with Morning Coffee (Missouri)

Talking Points to Veto FEPA by Dr. Mary Byrne

Paul Ryan’s Trojan Horse for the Welfare State” by economist Sven Lundgren at AIER explaining how this bill expands the swamp on welfare, health care and other issues

Privacy-Crushing FEPA Bill #HR4174: 10 Nitty Gritty Facts You Missed #VETO !” by Cristel Swayze at “What is Common Core”

Michelle Malkin on Tucker Carlson Explaining Dangers of Ed Tech in Schools

Please take this stand for your privacy and futures and those of your children! Thank you!

Dec 29, 2018

Townhall – Lame-Duck Congress Plays Grinch to Citizens by Passing Anti-Privacy Database Bill

In a new column at, Dr. Effrem explains the dangers of the unrecorded voice vote passage of yet another privacy invading bill by the U.S. Senate, waiting until after the election to pass a bill that dozens of citizen and parent groups opposed when passed by the House in 2017. This excerpt discusses some of the many reasons HR 4174, the Foundations for Evidence-based Policymaking Act (FEPA) is so problematic based on a summary and a rebuttal prepared by groups opposing FEPA:

While FEPA itself doesn’t expressly establish a formal data system with a central repository, the bill’s mandates regarding linking and sharing data among multiple federal agencies and thousands of bureaucrats will create essentially the same result: a de facto national database.

The federal government is demonstrably incompetent at data security; moreover, it routinely ignores the overwhelming data it already has showing the ineffectiveness of many (most) federal programs. There is no reason to believe an even more enormous trove of data can be secured, or that it will actually change government behavior in any meaningful way.

Most importantlycollecting and holding massive amounts of data about an individual has an intimidating effect on the individual—even if the data is never used. This fundamentally changes the relationship between the individual and government. Citizen direction of government cannot happen when government sits in a position of intimidation of the individual.

The full commentary is available HERE and has also been discussed at and

Due to the partial government shutdown, the White House comment line is not operating, but you may urge President Trump to veto this egregious violation of citizen led-governance and privacy by emailing him or tweeting to @realDonaldTrump or @POTUS.