Who’s data mining your kids?

Who’s data mining your children? asks Stephanie Simon on Politico.

The NSA has nothing on the ed tech startup known as Knewton.

The data analytics firm has peered into the brains of more than 4 million students across the country. By monitoring every mouse click, every keystroke, every split-second hesitation as children work through digital textbooks, Knewton is able to find out not just what individual kids know, but how they think. It can tell who has trouble focusing on science before lunch — and who will struggle with fractions next Thursday.

The data helps teachers track students’ progress, spot their learning problems and analyze what works best for each child.

Expanding the use of data in K-12 schools and colleges could improve teaching, make education more efficient and spur $300 billion a year in economic growth, according to a 2013 McKinsey report.

But there’s nothing to prevent private companies from sharing or selling the information, writes Simon. The federal education privacy law, written in 1974, is badly out of date, writes Simon. And only 7 percent of school districts bar tech companies from selling student data, according to a recent study.

Data “could be used to target ads to the kids and their families, or to build profiles on them that might be of interest to employers, military recruiters or college admissions officers,” she writes. So far, there’s no proof any company has exploited metadata or student records. But the door is open.

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