When the Lake Havasu Unified School District (Colorado) school board met recently to address the uproar over large-scale data collection of its students in grades K through 12, a statement from the board president reached heights of ignorance that aren’t often associated with privacy and data concerns. But that didn’t stop the board from voting nearly unanimously to implement a plan to use Synergy software to collect highly sensitive information on students in its district.
When asked why parents had voiced concerns over this software gathering and storing the full details of their children’s personal and academic lives, board president Jo Navaretta actually said (wait for it) that it reminded her of the paranoid and senseless panic in the 1960s over Social Security numbers.
Apparently Ms. Navaretta has never heard of the Office of Personnel Management data breach that resulted in the loss of 21.5 million people’s Social Security numbers being stolen, along with almost 5 million people’s fingerprints. Or the theft of a laptop that resulted in more than 200,000 soldiers having their Social Security numbers stolen. Maybe she’s heard of the case in which a stolen Veterans Administration laptop resulted in the loss of 26 million veterans’ Social Security numbers?
Yes… these parents are simply paranoid.
The board maintains that they might as well start gathering up all the personal information they can on underaged children because it’s part of a statewide mandate that will almost certainly include the adoption of the Synergy software. And after all, these are only kids… no one would want their identities, right?
Except, the FTC estimates of the more than one million new victims of identity theft in any given year, as many as 500,000 of them are believed to be minors. A more recent study showed the children were more likely to be victims of identity theft than their own parents, largely because their credit ratings are a blank slate and most people don’t bother to check up on children’s credit scores.
So does this mean that Synergy’s data collection and storage software is bad? Of course not, assuming effective protocols are in place and due diligence has been done. But clearly the blasé attitude expressed by the board, the air of “oh well, we have to implement it, what’s the big deal?” means they’re probably not responsible enough to oversee its implementation and to keep their network updated and secure in order to assure parents that their children’s identities are safe.