DNA Database Used To Block People From Sites Based On Race And Gender h/t @kinlane @audreywatters

Github code: https://github.com/offapi/rbac-23andme-oauth2 - this is why privacy matters. This also has implications for data recombination issues.

Data - including academic data - used to determine "character" and worthiness to go into debt

This is what profiling looks like, and how people can get targeted. Academic data, including "character" used as a factor for loans.

Brooklyn Teen Was Charged With Assaulting A Cop Until This Video Proved The Police Were Lying | ThinkProgress

A lot of implications here for privacy, security, and control around video/bodycams. The power is firmly in the hands of those who control the cameras. This has implications for data collection, privacy, and the ability for people and communities to tell their stories.

FERPA, Video Surveillance, and Law Enforcement Units

4 min read

In this post, we will take a look at what is potentially a large loophole in FERPA that has some obvious implications for school to prison pipeline issues.

However, I need to open with an enormous caveat. First, the FERPA brochure referenced in this post is from 2007. It is possible that these regulations have been updated over the last eight years. I searched in an effort to find updated versions, and asked other people if they knew of any more recent clarifications, and the closest thing I found from the Department of Education was this doc written after the Virginia Tech shooting. However, the fact that I didn't find anything more recent doesn't mean that additional clarification doesn't exist. If anyone reading this post knows of any more recent information on the use of surveillance cameras in schools, and how they are viewed under FERPA, please let me know either via email (bill at funnymonkey dot com) or on Twitter.

As the title of the 2007 brochure from the Department of Education indicates, the Department of Education is offering guidance on how to balance privacy of students with the security of schools, while complying with FERPA. The brochure highlights the role of "law enforcement units" - people or offices within the school who have been designated as having official responsibilities for enforcing laws, or communicating with law enforcement. FERPA specifically exempts records created or maintained by law enforcement units from protection under FERPA.

Under FERPA, investigative reports and other records created and maintained by these "law enforcement units" are not considered "education records" subject to FERPA. Accordingly, schools may disclose information from law enforcement unit records to anyone, including outside law enforcement authorities, without parental consent. See 34 CFR § 99.8.

As stated in FERPA, and highlighted here in this brochure, data collected or maintained by law enforcement units is not considered an educational record. Therefore, both parental and student rights over these records is limited.

The Department continues to offer the following advice (emphasis added):

Schools are increasingly using security cameras as a tool to monitor and improve student safety. Images of students captured on security videotapes that are maintained by the school's law enforcement unit are not considered education records under FERPA. Accordingly, these videotapes may be shared with parents of students whose images are on the video and with outside law enforcement authorities, as appropriate. Schools that do not have a designated law enforcement unit might consider designating an employee to serve as the "law enforcement unit" in order to maintain the security camera and determine the appropriate circumstances in which the school would disclose recorded images.

According to how FERPA is written, and based on the Department's own advice, schools appear to be encouraged to classify specific employees as "law enforcement units" to collect and manage data inside the school that is not protected by the specific law designed to protect data collected inside schools. This detail is odd on its own, but given that the stated purpose of this exemption is to stovepipe data sharing with law enforcement, this recommendation is highly problematic. Given that this FERPA brochure specifically addresses surveillance camera data, it remains an open question how this would affect the use of body cameras in schools.

In this Iowa school district, where it appears that principals and assistant principals will be wearing body cams to record interactions with students, it's unclear whether the data from the cameras is considered an educational record or not. However, in Houston, where all school resource officers will wear body cameras, it seems pretty clear that the officers - and all data collected via their body cams - are part of law enforcement units, and that the data collected by police within these schools will not be protected under FERPA.

We want kids to be treated as learners, not as the objects of surveillance. Creating a special class of employee and a special class of data that is collected inside yet handled outside the educational system seems destructive, and against the interests of learners. Mistakes are viewed differently by education and law enforcement. The broad exemptions granted under the auspices of a law enforcement unit provide ample opportunity for even well intentioned adults to make decisions that have long lasting negative repercussions for kids. The school to prison pipeline is real, and loopholes created by law enforcement units are part of the problem.

The Most Important Thing I Have Ever Written About Privacy Policies and Terms of Service

1 min read

Privacy Policies and Terms of Service need to be shorter. 

OER, or Making the World Better by Doing What You Are Already Doing

5 min read

Some of my teacher friends are in the midst of planning for next year. This planning work often involves creating new curriculum, tweaking old lessons or activities, or curating and organizing learning materials. For teachers who stay in the classroom for multiple years, it's an iterative process that's never done - there's always an improvement to make, a resource to be added, an approach to be modified. The toolkit - and the specific curricular elements within that toolkit - constantly morph over time. It's the place where the teacher/author/creater/specialist can shine.

As an OER advocate, this is also the place that has enormous untapped potential. Teachers constantly create material - some of it new, some of it remixed - and as this material gets used in classrooms, teachers are in an ideal position to make specific, targeted improvements based on what worked and what didn't. So, if you are a teacher and want to tap into the OER world, these steps will get you there.

At a high level, these steps are things that most teachers are already doing. By making some subtle shifts in emphasis, however, we can improve our planning process, and contribute focused, class-tested OER for others to use and adapt. The process plays out over the course of the academic year. With some minor tweaks to our planning process, we can make future planning easier, and create some quality OER in the process.

Initial Planning

This is the phase where scope and sequence is developed, and materials are prepared and mapped to the scope and sequence. In many classes, "materials" range from textbooks, primary source texts, vocabulary, projects, field trips, and/or classroom activities. In this planning phase, two elements are essential:

  • Whenever possible, put materials online in an accessible format. Google Docs works well, as do most blogging platforms like Wordpress or Known. When you put your materials online in a format that makes future editing easy, you eliminate barriers to adapting/modifying the content in the future.
  • Document all sources thoroughly - when we are planning, it's easy to focus on the plan and shortchange the sources. By focusing on documenting the sources (akin to a list of works consulted) we give ourselves a road map to recreate or verify our material if needed. This is valuable over time - while we might remember our sources two weeks out, we will certainly forget some of them after a few months

Additionally, when you are storing the work you create during your planning, be sure to put it in a space you control. Even if your district has a Google docs account, use your personal account.


As you and your students work through the material, flag elements that worked well, and elements that didn't. Time permitting, write up why you think things succeeded or failed. Do this periodically throughout the year - not daily, but every two to three weeks.

Clean Up and Organize

During school vacation times, edit/revise/clean up the lessons that worked. The goal here is to get them approaching a state where they make sense for other people (aka, someone who isn't you). This doesn't need to be comprehensive - it's more of a triage. The goal here is minor copyediting, and the ability to see activities that were more successful than others.

Planning and Maintenance

The planning and maintenance generally happens during longer breaks in the leadup to the new school year. The clean up and organizational work makes this easier (although, really, every step in this process makes the other steps progressively easier, and the benefits multiply over time, leaving teachers free to work more creatively on content and pedagogical approach).

During the planning and organizational periods, the more successful lessons get an additional layer of polish. Additionally, the licensing of any source materials can be checked, and the list of resources used can be double-checked and verified. Once the resource has been reviewed and cleaned up, you can select an appropriate license to use when you share the resource. The goal here is not to make any resource perfect, but to make it comprehensible to people who aren't you. At the end of the planning and maintenance phase, you will have accomplished two main things:

  • The most successful lessons from the course will be cleaned up, modified to incorporate changes based on classroom experience, and in a format where they can be shared and reused in other classes; and
  • You will have built the next version of your course, and benefitted from the work you have done in the past.

Over time, as you clean and share more material, you will have an increasingly larger and more polished body of teaching material to work with. Ideally, as people incorporate your material (and you incorporate theirs) you will develop a trusted group of colleagues. As additional years pass, the body of openly licensed and classroom tested material will increased - and as more people add their best lessons, the size and variety of the teaching materials will grow.

Build For Reuse, or Formats Matter

Earlier in the post, I mentioned formats. In this context, when I say "format" I mean "file format", or the way in which the information is stored. For example, pdf, docx, pptx, odt, are all file formats (used by Acrobat, Word, Powerpoint, and LibreOffice, respectively). The format you choose has implications for how your work is reused. PDFs are convenient for distribution, but horrible for reuse. The same goes for powerpoint, and even some videos. This is why an option like Google Docs or a simple blog is often the best choice for individuals, or even moderately large groups. Google docs or blogging software are both pretty straightforward to use, and are familiar to people with a broad range of technical expertise. Most importantly, both tools make it easy to share content - this simplifies the process of one person reusing and modifying content shared by another.

Biometric passport, from Wikipedia

The wikipedia page on biometric passports. Useful for looking at the process at a high level.