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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/19/17

Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Big Data, and the Public-Private Planned Economy

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Such a policy of deregulated public-private data-mining for workforce development could also open backdoors for corporations to coopt student data for behavioral advertising and corporate-fascist political-economic planning under the guise of "legitimate educational interest."

If you think that a DeVos policy of public-private education data-mining won't be ripe for abuse, then consider how privacy activists at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have put the Google Corporation under fire from a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission . The EFF is charging Google with breaching its "K-12 School Service Provider Pledge to Safeguard Student Privacy" because it allegedly assimilated student data collected from Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and then expropriated that data for noneducational behavioral advertising. Similarly, Google is also being sued by University of California-Berkley students, along with hundreds of class-action litigants from twenty-one other states, because GAFE allegedly excavated their student emails to extract data for noneducational market R&D.

The verdicts are still out on both cases. In the meantime, Google's loose privacy practices are setting the precedent for obfuscating the lines between government-restricted public student data and commercially tradable consumer data. Now, consider within these blurred lines the possibility of a DeVos resurrection of a national education databank like inBloom, which aspired to digitally aggregate all student data across the nation--until it was shut down as a result of outcries from privacy advocates.

Originally called the Shared Learning Collaborative , the educational data-mining company known as inBloom was created with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. From 2011 to 2014, inBloom programs tabulated for each individual student copious data points in over "400 data fields" sequenced into three categorical data sets: personally identifiable information (PII), student information system (SIS) data, and "user interaction information" (UII) [3].

Charting these individualized and demographic data hubs with an operating system from the NewsCorp subsidiary Wireless Generation , inBloom stored this massive data aggregate in a web cloud managed by the Amazon Corporation , which has also built for the Central Intelligence Agency a similar web-based computing cloud that streamlines CIA data dossiers. Once uploaded to the Amazon cloud, this PII-SIS-UII data warehouse became accessible to educational institutions and other third-party vendors including for-profit corporations.

In 2014, after fighting against testimony from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and after battling a lawsuit filed with the New York State Supreme Court , inBloom caved in to mounting public backlash against its third-party data-sharing practices by terminating all of its contracts and shutting down all operations.

But don't worry; DeVos could contract with a new Carnegie-created data-mining enterprise that is picking up where inBloom left off. Funded by a $5 million grant from the federal government through the National Science Foundation, Carnegie Mellon University has launched Learnsphere , a not-for-profit digital repository for sharing student data with third parties including for-profit vendors. Professor of Human Computer Interaction and Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, Ken Koedinger, who heads up the Big Data project, explains that Learnsphere is basically a rendition of the infamous inBloom: "There certainly are some similarities," stated Koedinger.

To be sure, Koedinger also says that "[i]n some ways, it's a deep philosophical difference." In particular, to mitigate public resistance from privacy activists, Learnsphere will not be lumping together all of its educational data into a single online cloud like inBloom. Instead, Learnsphere utilizes a "distributed infrastructure " which allows educational institutions and learning software companies to store student data on their own servers while creating proxy links between the servers and the central Learnsphere network. Also, Koedinger pledges that Learnsphere will collect zero PII.

Nevertheless, despite this "decentralized" IT infrastructure, Learnsphere is still sharing student data with third parties and for-profit vendors. Furthermore,Koedinger admits that Learnsphere must employ a monitor to scan databanks to filter out any "accidental" PII. Moreover, Learnsphere does collect certain SIS demographics such as the percentage of free and reduced-price lunch recipients in a given school.

For instance, the Learnsphere website contains a shared network of inter-collaborative databanks, including MITx and HarvardX Dataverse, which is a data hub that contains a file titled "Socioeconomic Status Indicators of HarvardX and MITx Participants 2012-2014" with the following description: "[t]his dataset includes the home mailing addresses of all participants . . . in MITx and HarvardX courses. For U.S. residents, These mailing addresses can be parsed and geo-matched with data from the US Census to develop a suite of socioeconomic status indicators, including median neighborhood income and neighborhood level of education. We also include self-reported survey data about parental level of education, and we include an indicator for whether or not the participant earned a certificate."

With such vast pools of socioeconomic SIS data cross-referenced with Learnsphere's dossiers of cognitive-behavioral UII, third-party corporations under DeVos deregulation could commandeer these student data for epidemiological behavioral advertising and corporate-fascist workforce planning by computing real-time consumer behavior patterns and workforce development trends across various social groups and geopolitical regions.

National Standards for National Socialism:

Of course, a DeVos policy of student data-mining for corporate-fascist workforce planning would be nothing new to America. Learnsphere and inBloom are only two of the most recent educational data-tabulating projects to be spawned from a long historical web of corporate-fascist Carnegie institutions.

Although the US Department of Education was not established until 1979, America's progression toward a corporate-fascist national education policy can be traced at least as far back as the publication of the Carnegie-funded Conclusions and Recommendations for the Social Studies by the American Historical Association in 1934. The document reads: "[The United States] is embarking upon vast experiments in social planning and control which call for large scale cooperation on the part of the people . . . [T]he age of laissez faire in economy and government is closing and a new age of collectivism is emerging . . . The implications of education are clear and imperative: (a) the efficient functioning of the emerging economy and the full utilization of its potentialities require profound changes in the attitudes and outlook of the American people" (qtd. in Iserbyt 40).

To measure progress toward the achievement of these corporate-fascist reeducation goals, twelve years later, the Carnegie Corporation of New York endowed the founding of Educational Testing Services (ETS) with a $750,000 grant in 1946 (Iserbyt 55). Ever since then, ETS has played a central role in calculating student metrics for the standardization of national learning benchmarks, including corporate-fascist workforce training goals. In 1964, the Carnegie Corporation put together the Committee on Assessing the Progress of Education, which in 1969 evolved into the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (Iserbyt 89). Originally, NAEP stats were configured by the Education Commission of the States, which was likewise founded by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation (Iserbyt 91). But since 1983, the NAEP has been proctoring all of its "Nation's Report Card" evaluations through ETS (Iserbyt 110) [4].

It should be noted that these national Carnegie metrics for corporate-fascist workforce schooling are rooted in the Hegelian philosophy of the first President of the Carnegie Institution, Skull-and-Bonesman Daniel Coit Gilman, an academic who was the first President of Johns Hopkins University and the first President of the University of California (62). According to former Research Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Antony C. Sutton, Gilman's Hegelianism at the Carnegie Institution was carried on by "other members of The Order [of Skull and Bones] [who] have been on Carnegie boards since the turn of the century" (27) [5]. It should also be noted that DeVos's colleague on the Trump Cabinet is Bonesman Stephen Mnuchin (Sutton 195, 299), who has been confirmed as US Treasury Secretary.

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John Klyczek has an MA in English and is a college English instructor, concentrating on the history of global eugenics and Aldous Huxley's dystopic novel, Brave New World. He is a contributor to the Intrepid Report, the Dissident Voice, News With (more...)
 
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