Browsing articles in "Data Collection and Data Privacy"
Nov 26, 2017

Education Week Does Balanced Story on Personalized Learning – Interviews Dr. Effrem

Kudos to Benjamin Herold and Education Week for bringing some balance to whole issue of computer-based education in the article The Case(s) Against Personalized Learning. After interviewing leading opponents from across the ideological spectrum, including Dr. Effrem, Herold lists the three main arguments against personalized learning (PL), also called competency-based education (CBE):

  1. “The Hype Outweighs the Research,” quoting John F. Pane, senior scientist at the Rand Corporation, who said, “The evidence base is very weak at this point.”
  2. “Personalized Learning is Bad for Teachers and Students” quoting progressive education author Alfie Kohn who said of personalized learning, “It’s behaviorism on a screen.”
  3. “Big Tech + Big Data = Big Problems,” quoting Audrey Waters who said, “When Facebook promises personalization, it’s really about massive data collection.”

Here is the quote by Dr. Effrem included in the article:

“We’re sacrificing our children’s privacy, and we’re allowing corporations to make potentially life-changing decisions about our kids, all for technology that doesn’t actually help them,” said Effrem, the president of Education Liberty Watch, an advocacy organization that supports parents’ right to control their children’s education.

As an adjunct to the article Herold developed a survey containing responses of the people interviewed for the article with their views of PL in response to the statements: “Personalized learning should ________” and “Personalized learning should not ___________”. Here are a few examples:

Let us hope this example of balanced journalism is not an isolated incident on this very important topic of personalized learning.  The public and especially our children and teachers really need to understand the ill effects of PL on academic achievement, the student-teacher relationship, and data and psychological privacy.



Nov 25, 2017

The National Pulse – House Leaders Ignore Citizen Concerns, Pass National Database Bill

More analysis at the National Post from Dr. Effrem about the very ill-advised passage of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (FEPA – HR 4174). This bill will eventually lead to the establishment of a national database. An executive summary to the rebuttal to the House Majority Staff “Myths and Facts” sheet is included. Keep calling your U.S. Senators at 202-224-3121 to stop the senate version S 2046 and the White House to veto the bill should it pass the Senate. Thank you! Read the full article here.


This bill’s supporters also claim it will increase transparency. However, the only transparency it increases is to the private data of the American people, which even if anonymous, was collected in identifiable form. FEPA expands the swamp by increasing government control and monitoring of individual American citizens, and it must be stopped.


Nov 21, 2017

FEPA Update & Rebuttal


Thank you very much for all of your efforts to try to stop HR 4174, the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. Sadly the House listened to the Big Data special interests and dismissed the concerns of the grassroots, passing the bill on a voice vote with only 23 minutes of cheerleading “debate.”

In their attempt to quash debate and citizen opposition, the House staff put out a propaganda piece masquerading as “facts.” ELW along with several other groups focused on privacy thoroughly reviewed and researched these claims and have produced a response that includes a one page executive summary.

Please review the summary and let your Senators know that they should oppose this bill. The bill is on a fast track and may well bypass the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to which it is currently referred. Please also start urging President Trump to be on the lookout for this bill and to veto it if it reaches his desk.

Mr. Trump expressed grave concern over student privacy as indicated in this discussion with Ann Marie Banfield of Cornerstone Action of New Hampshire on the campaign trail in 2015. Please remind him of his statements.

More information will soon be forthcoming. This is not a data transparency bill, it is a swamp expanding bill. It must be stopped!


Nov 13, 2017

The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act Will Lead to a National Database



HR 4174/S 2046,[1] the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (FEPA), introduced by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray, is another federal bill that will increase 1) the non-consensual surveillance of free-born American citizens, and 2) the probability of a comprehensive national database on every American. This legislation responds to the report[2] by the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP),[3] an entity created by FEPA’s authors. The justification is to monitor the effectiveness of federal programs, but deep problems with the bill outweigh any possible benefits:

FEPA mandates that every federal agency create an “evidence building” (data-mining) plan that must include “a list of . . . questions for which the agency intends to develop evidence to support policymaking” and “a list of data the agency intends to collect, use, or acquire to facilitate the use of evidence in policymaking.” This would allow any bureaucrats to propose to collect any data on any citizen on any topic they want, to answer their desired policy questions. 

Each agency is also directed to create “…a list of any challenges” to this goal, including “any statutory or other restrictions to accessing relevant data.” This responds to CEP’s recommendation that “Congress and the President should consider repealing current bans and limiting future bans on the collection and use of data for evidence building.”  This recommendation presumably covers the student unit-record prohibition[4] and the prohibition[5] on creating a national K-12 student database.[6]

The Director of the Office of Management and Budget must then use all these evidence-building (data-mining) plans to develop “a unified evidence-building plan” for the entire federal government. Although the public must be “consulted,” and lip service is paid to issues of privacy and confidentiality of data, these are only items to be considered. There are no actual prohibitions or even limitations on proceeding with data collection, regardless of the sensitivity of the data.

The federal government is demonstrably incompetent at data security; moreover, the government routinely ignores the overwhelming data it already has that shows the ineffectiveness of many (most) federal programs.[7] 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 importantly, collecting 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.[8]

A bill like FEPA would be expected from a totalitarian government.[9] Congress should solve the “program effectiveness” problem by returning to the Founders’ vision and drastically reducing government’s bloated size and scope. This solution would obviate the need for the Orwellian surveillance scheme initiated by FEPA.