Alert: Assault on Student and Citizen Data Privacy on Fast Track


HR 4174 sponsored by Speaker Paul Ryan is due for a vote this Wednesday. This bill creates a government-wide “evidence building plan” that will lead to a national citizen database. The U.S. Dept. of Education will include lifelong student data tracking. Details are available here and here. A one-page summary of the concerns with this bill is available HERE and pasted below so that you may send this to your U.S. representative.

This bill is to implement the recommendations of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP) created by legislation authored by Ryan and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). Their big idea was to remove the prohibition on lifelong tracking of students through college and the workforce. This generated more than two thirds of the comments they received and the majority of those comments were negative including testimony from Dr. Effrem and Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project. In their final report, CEP recommended:

“Congress and the President should consider repealing current bans and limiting future bans on the collection and use of data for evidence building.”

This is obviously very concerning, especially given the government’s terrible track record of protecting data and the government’s efforts to expand social and emotional data collection on children beginning in preschool.

Please start calling Congress tomorrow morning at 202-224-3121. You may also use this directory for individual representatives. Tell them:

1) To vote NO on HR 4174 and that you oppose a national database. Also tell them you object to the suspension of the rules and that you demand a recorded vote. A bill this dangerous to privacy and freedom should not be rammed through with no debate.

2) Say that you want to restore the FERPA regulations back to their pre-2012 state to restore parental consent before sharing student data with researchers and corporations in order to protect privacy.

Thank you for whatever you can do to protect the privacy of our children!



HR 4174/S 2046, [1] the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (FEPA), introduced by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray, is another federal bill that will increase 1) the non-consensual surveillance of free- born
American citizens, and 2) the probability of a comprehensive national database on every American. This legislation responds to the report [2] by the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP), [3] an entity created by FEPA’s authors.

The justification is to monitor the effectiveness of federal programs, but deep problems with the bill outweigh any possible benefits:

FEPA mandates that every federal agency create an “evidence building” (data-mining) plan that must include “a list of . . . questions for which the agency intends to develop evidence to support policymaking” and “a list of data the agency intends to collect, use, or acquire to facilitate the use of evidence in policymaking.” This would allow any bureaucrats to propose to collect any data on any citizen on any topic they want, to answer their desired policy questions.

Each agency is also directed to create “…a list of any challenges” to this goal, including “any statutory or other restrictions to accessing relevant data.” This responds to CEP’s recommendation that “Congress and the President should consider repealing current bans and limiting future bans on the collection and use of data for evidence building.”

This recommendation presumably covers the student unit-record prohibition [4] and the prohibition [5] on creating a national K-12 student database. [6]

The Director of the Office of Management and Budget must then use all these evidence-building (data- mining) plans to develop “a unified evidence-building plan” for the entire federal government. Although the public must be “consulted,” and lip service is paid to issues of privacy and confidentiality of data, these are only items to be considered.

There are no actual prohibitions or even limitations on proceeding with data collection, regardless of the sensitivity of the data.

The federal government is demonstrably incompetent at data security; moreover, the government routinely ignores the overwhelming data it already has that shows the ineffectiveness of many (most) federal programs. [7] There is no reason to believe an even more enormous trove of data can be secured, or that it will actually change government behavior in any meaningful way.

Most importantly, collecting and holding massive amounts of data about an individual has an intimidating effect on the individual-even if the data is never used.

This fundamentally changes the relationship between the individual and government. Citizen direction of government cannot happen when government sits in a position of intimidation of the individual. [8]

A bill like FEPA would be expected from a totalitarian government. [9] Congress should solve the “program effectiveness” problem by returning to the Founders’ vision anddrastically reducing government’s bloated size and scope.

This solution would obviate the need for the Orwellian surveillance scheme initiated by FEPA.

Used with the permission of Education Liberty Watch.