Civil rights advocacy groups are expressing opposition to Florida collecting student data from social media, law enforcement and school districts to be used for a database designed to prevent school shootings, EdScoop reports. The database is set to launch Aug. 1.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Electronic Frontier Foundation have called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to stop the project due to student privacy concerns. The groups claim the data collection is a “mass surveillance effort.”
The database is part of a new school safety law that was signed by the governor in 2018 after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The governor’s office responded to the civil rights groups by saying that they were making false claims about the project.
The intention of this database is to prevent students from becoming victims of or committing future school shootings. The practice, however, could make them victims of identity theft. The project raises questions such as who will have access to this database, how will the information be used, where will it be stored and how will it be protected from hackers.
The advocacy groups claim that the information gathered could stigmatize students who have been victims of bullying, for example. The database could include information on mental health and child protective services cases, for example.
The quality of student privacy laws are hit and miss in states around the country. The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and the Network for Public Education recently issued a report suggesting that most states fall short in terms of protecting student information. An annual Consortium for School Networking survey found that 68% of K-12 technology administrators are say student data privacy is becoming a more critical issue and is an ongoing struggle.
Last fall, the FBI warned that breached student data can end up for sale on the dark web. Most youth don’t have credit histories yet, so their information can be used to open accounts without detection for years. And just this week, a United Kingdom technology research organization, released a report saying it discovered that personal information, such as email addresses, full names and birthdays, on 7 million students attending online K12.com virtual schools, was exposed to the public for at least a week.
Depending on what type of information is stored on Florida’s database, it could contain a goldmine worth of information for hackers.