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Policy: Technology

New student database draws praise, privacy fears

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Education,Associated Press,Cybersecurity,Technology,Mike Pence

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana's plans to create a database filled with every state student's achievement test scores, college degrees and job histories is raising concerns from some parents and privacy experts, who fear the data could be stolen or misused.

A law passed in March calls for the Indiana Network of Knowledge, or INK, to track students from elementary school through college and into the workforce. The database will allow state officials to identify job and education trends so they can tailor the education system to better meet employers' needs and help close the skills gap.

Rep. Steve Braun, R-Zionsville, the bill's author, said many states are developing databases that show how students are performing and using that information to assess how well the education system is doing.

"But there's nobody currently that is looking at the future job market effectively and using that to inform the education system," he told The Indianapolis Star. "That is obviously the greatest value in terms of closing the skills gap because it really aligns the education system with the job market."

The database will link information from the Department of Education, Commission for Higher Education and the Department of Workforce Development. Officials also will try to persuade employers to share job and salary histories.

State officials say great care will be taken to remove student names and other identifying information. INK will develop a data security and safeguarding plan, as well as procedures for protecting the data in case of a breach.

"There is nothing that doesn't meet the code, standard, the law and the expectation of privacy," said Teresa Lubbers, Indiana's higher education commissioner.

Still, some privacy experts and parents question how well the data will be protected.

Fred H. Cate, director of the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research at the IU Mauer School of Law in Bloomington, said he worries that the database could be used for unadvertised purposes. Those could include tracking down students with unpaid loans or those who might be involved in terrorist activities.

"One of the first places the FBI turned after 9/11 (terrorist attacks) was to universities," he noted.

Erin Tuttle, co-founder of Hoosiers Against Common Core, is also concerned.

"The fear that people have is that it (data) will be shared and sold," Tuttle said. "A lot of people don't want their data out there because of all the violations and all the ways that it can be manipulated. Those things get hacked all the time.

"It really is one of those Pandora's boxes."

Jackie Dowd, special assistant for career innovation to Gov. Mike Pence, said the concerns are unfounded.

State and federal privacy laws protect the data, and the new law includes a system of checks and balances to control and monitor the use of the data.

"The data is not for sale," Dowd said.

Supporters say the long-term benefits make the system worth it.

"It will allow us to see trends, to see where Hoosiers go after school," said David Galvin, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education. "It will help with budgeting and directing course work. And it will show our strengths and weaknesses and where the state can focus its resources to help Hoosiers get the jobs they need to improve their quality of life."

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