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Michelle Malkin: Drain Silicon Valley/Beltway student data-mining swamp

| Sunday, April 15, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pauses while testifying before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary committees on Capitol Hill in Washington last week about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election. (AP Photo | Andrew Harnik)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pauses while testifying before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary committees on Capitol Hill in Washington last week about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election. (AP Photo | Andrew Harnik)

During last week's Capitol Hill hearings with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, not a peep was heard about Silicon Valley, with Beltway help, collecting millions of American schoolchildren's personal information and browsing habits in a massive privacy invasion.

Facebook is just one tech giant partnering with the U.S. Department of Education and schools nationwide in pursuit of student data. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Pearson, Knewton and more are exploiting public schoolchildren subjected to annual assessments, which exploded after adoption of the tech-industry-supported Common Core. The recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act further enshrined government collection of personally identifiable information — including data on attitudes, values, beliefs and dispositions — and allows its release to third-party contractors, thanks to Obama-era loopholes in the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.

The so-called school-to-work pipeline creates avenues into taxpayer coffers for firms pitching data-gathering initiatives to “align” student learning with “skill sets” and “competencies” desired by corporations. Faceboo joined with the Department of Education's Digital Promise initiative last fall to develop “micro-credentialing” badges for thousands of adult students being taught “Social Media Marketing Basics,” “Marketing with Facebook Pages,” “Marketing with Facebook Ads” and “Marketing with Instagram.”

Facebook encroaches on school-age users through its Messenger Kids app and “whole-child personalized learning” programs funded by Mark Zuckerberg through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Its education division is headed by former Gates Foundation program officer and Obama-administration Common Core champion Jim Shelton. “Personalized learning” is an edutech buzz phrase for hooking students and teachers on branded software and hardware without evidence that they improve academic performance.

Google's “free” Google Apps for Education (GAFE) suite builds essentially turns teachers into tax-subsidized lobbyists. Enrollees are “trained” on Google products, earn certification, then open consultancy businesses and bill school districts (i.e., the public) to hawk Google's products to colleagues. Last week, 23 parent and watchdog groups filed a Federal Trade Commission complaint alleging Google is violating child-protection laws by collecting personal data of, and advertising to, people under age 13.

Over the past four years, Google has admitted “scanning and indexing” student emails sent using GAFE and data-mining student users for commercial gain when they use their accounts for noneducational purposes. Google can collect student/family data to target ads through related services outside the GAFE suite, which the watered-down federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act doesn't cover.

The Trump administration has yet to close Obama-era loopholes in federal student and family privacy protections that opened data mining to third-party private entities. It's time to drain the student data-mining swamp and their facilitators in Washington — for the children.

Michelle Malkin is host of “Michelle Malkin Investigates” on

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