The Alabama State Longitudinal Database System Bill or House Bill 125 (HB125) would create two new state agencies with no accountability and almost unlimited authority. The agencies’ sole purpose would be to collect information on private citizens. HB125 is currently back in the House with the Holley Amendment added which forces private schools to comply.
The first new agency created would be the Alabama Office of Education and Workforce Statistics, and the second is the powerful advisory board made up primarily of agency heads. This bill will apply to all public school students and workers leaving public education. It will collect private information on individuals, potentially through their entire lives. The purpose of this bill is to collect information on students, and monitor them indefinitely. As the bill states, “to create the Alabama Longitudinal Data System to provide for the matching of information about students from early learning through postsecondary education and into employment.” (pg. 1) The stated goal of the legislation is to, “guide decision makers at all levels.” (pg. 3) No clear basis or need for this mass amount of data collection on private citizens including students is provided. The bill contains only vague promises of confidentially with no actual method of protection or limitation on the data collection power of these new agencies. The bill claims to provide protections but provides none. “The protection and the maintenance of confidentiality of collected educational data, including compliance with the Federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and all other relevant state and federal privacy laws, and all relevant state cyber security policies,” (pg. 5). Originally, FERPA was the federal law designed to protect family privacy in education settings. However, the Federal Department of Education gutted the law in December of 2011. On January 3, 2012, changes went into effect that allowed for the collection of student data by third parties. Those parties retain ownership of the data and may share or sell it at their discretion.
The first phrase from the bill listed above, is an empty promise, as nowhere in bill are there measures to protect the data. It is important to note that there are currently no State or Federal laws which apply to this bill in regard to protecting students’ personally identifiable information such as name, social security number, or family information. Even if all the information collected were dis-aggregate (meaning not on-its-own enough to identify an individual) it is still dangerous. Dis-aggregate information becomes personal information once you have just a few data points. Eagle Forum of Alabama opposes HB125, as it would create two extremely powerful agencies and violate the rights of Alabamians. If the government is going to seek any private information from citizens, they must provide a sound basis or get a warrant.
The Holley Amendment, which Eagle Forum of Alabama has also reviewed, has now passed. It does not solve the problems of HB125. The Holley Amendment actually creates additional problems such as requiring private schools receiving any state funding to comply with this data collection program. Go to Eagle Forum of Alabama’s website to find your legislators.
Take action now! Contact your State Representative and Senator and strongly request they oppose HB125. For more information contact Deborah Love, Executive Director of Eagle Forum of Alabama at (205) 879-7096.