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Student Data to Be Given to Controversial inBloom in Summer, State Says

By Amy Zimmer | February 20, 2014 4:38pm
 An image of lockers at Harlem's P.S. 76.
An image of lockers at Harlem's P.S. 76.
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DNAinfo/Emily Frost

MANHATTAN — A controversial move to keep public school students' data on a cloud-based storage system managed by private company inBloom is expected to begin as early as July, officials revealed Thursday.

New York State Department of Education officials announced that they plan to launch the oft-delayed EngageNY Portal by the start of the next school year, despite parents' and elected officials' concerns that the portal could expose their children's sensitive information to hackers or private companies. That data includes grades, disciplinary records, economic status, medical and mental health records.

"The full data set will be shared securely with our partners about two months prior to the full release," education department spokesman Tom Dunn wrote in an email.

"We are working with the legislature on privacy matters and do not expect the full release of the EngageNY Portal until the start of the next school year."

State education officials planned to begin the data upload in January, but said they delayed the release because the portal's implementation was behind schedule.

Parents say the state's plan to move ahead with the controversial program shows an unwillingness to listen to their concerns.

InBloom has come under fire across the nation as parents fear their children's identity could be stolen or their youthful infractions could come back to haunt them later in life — and several states have already backed out of their contracts.

"We think that New York State should cancel the contract immediately, and pull out of inBloom as all other states have done," said Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, who has been a staunch foe of the portal. "There is no purpose to sharing the data and there are huge risks to going forward."

Albany legislators have also been pushing for the state DOE to put additional security and privacy measures in place.

There are three bills currently winding their way through Albany that seek to shield student data. One would mandate parental consent and has other restrictions on sharing personal student information. Another would require an avenue for parents to opt out, and the third would allow districts to opt out of inBloom.

A state Supreme Court judge recently sided with the state in a lawsuit brought by New York City parents claiming that the data sharing program violated privacy laws.

InBloom has defended its security measures, claiming its system would be preferable to existing "antiquated" databases, company spokesman Adam Gaber said previously.