Sometimes contradictions can be startling – and informative at the same time. The current issue of Fortune (July 1st 2013) features a cover article about the success of LinkedIn, the professional networking site that has been experiencing a huge burst of growth and innovation. “As it reaches critical mass, LinkedIn is becoming the dominant global forum for businesses of all kinds,” writes Senior Writer Jessi Hempel. After describing the larger economic profile, she continues: “But CEO Jeff Weiner considers LinkedIn a consumer-facing company. After all, it’s most critical asset- the resource that makes the business possible – is the information that users voluntarily upload. Says Weiner: ‘Without our members, we don’t have LinkedIn – as a platform or an ecosystem.’ . . . .
Just as Mark Zuckerberg refers to Facebook as a social graph that maps all human relationships, Weiner believes that LinkedIn can be an economic graph . . . . . Imagine a platform that can digitally represent every opportunity in the world. . . . He wants to connect everyone everywhere who has a job or wants a job in order to match talent with opportunity. . . . . In effect, Hoffman and Weiner have built a company that’s more reliable because users update the data themselves.”
The critical aspect here is the voluntary creation and sharing of data which is designed to mesh with the specific needs of each member, in which an impetus for integrity also becomes self fulfilling.
Now let’s look at the opposite end of this spectrum – no, not the NSA spying operation, which would be the polar opposite, but the data gathering efforts of the NYC Department of Education, hiring inBloom at enormous potential cost, (starting in 2015) while strenuously resisting any effort at transparency, and secretly enlisting every parent and child in the public school system as a guinea pig. As I wrote in my article about the Brooklyn Borough Hall meeting, (http://usedview.com/article/parent-advocates-at-brooklyn-borough-hall-meeting) parents asked what data had already been released:
The types of data that have already been released include but are not limited to:
• Demographic information
• Parent contact information
• Programs (which include information about advanced, remedial and Special Education programs – disclosures which experts believe are specifically prohibited by legal provisions governing IEP data)
• Disciplinary measures
• Court appearances and outcomes
They asked what was to be expected in the future, since there has been no outreach to keep parents or even administrators informed, and no mechanism for parents to opt out of the plan. Ideally, there would be a requirement for parents to opt in to the process, and to specify with whom they are willing to share their child’s and family’s data. If the Gates Foundation thought more like LinkedIn, they would approach this from the parents’ point of view (“consumer facing”; oh but wait, for them, the “consumer” is the vendor or the data-miner who will benefit financially from its use) far more than as a wonderful free honey pot from which to select targets for marketing; or to develop screens to deliver customers to political or commercial ventures. The idea of a captive population hand delivered by a city agency (NYC is not alone, but the largest participant) to a commercial entrepreneur, including data which is legally protected by IDEA legislation, as well as other privacy protocols – and allowing it to be uploaded to the Cloud, which is about as safe as putting all your data in a big net hanging from a sky hook – would never fly in a competitive environment. But because they have groomed the market into complicity for a long time now, with oodles of money and a lot of fast talk about market reforms and accountability, the deal was done before anyone had a chance to cry foul! Now are we supposed to feel grateful that NYC is among the first of the experimental sites? While inBloom argues that their platform is content neutral, essentially more like Android or Apple, providing a single source log-in for multiple users/providers, the question of involuntary participation does not go away.
Parents are now playing catch-up. A bill (A 7872) was introduced in the NY State Assembly, for example, allowing parents to opt out of the transfer of information. But as it was late in the session in Albany, and there was no companion Bill in the Senate, the whole thing was in limbo when lawmakers left for the year.
What is to be done? The articles below provide detailed analysis and history around this difficult topic.