Sometimes life hands you stories that are simply better than any cheap fiction you can pick up from a newsstand or checkout line. Take for example this on-again-off-again “data sharing” relationship between Iwan Streicheicenberger, CEO of inBloom, (a data piracy and reselling outfit masquerading as a non-profit student-centric organization) and John White, student data pimp, (masquerading as a state Superintendent of Education.)
At first, Iwan and inBloom were avidly pursuing a relationship with John White and John White didn’t even know they existed when he first rolled into town. Before long though, over a few leisurely dinners, John was being wooed by Peter Gorman, Iwan’s Cyrano d’ Bergerac over at Wireless Generation (the authors of the inBloom database run by Iwan) the air beneath his wings, and his recharger.
If you are available for dinner on Wednesday night, I would love to take you and discuss Broad school reform and other issues but no pressure on that either. I know how precious an evening with family, time at the gym, or just a little down time can be to recharge your batteries.” (Peter Gorman/Cyrano)
“Dude—you are my recharger! Dinner it is, of course. Then let’s visit some schools Thursday. I’m really looking forward to it.” (John White)
Kind of a lame corporate pick-up line, but it seemed to work. I’m not exactly sure what the code phrase for “visit some schools” really means, but I’m thinking that might be their secret code or a reformer euphemism for doing lines of coke off of school playground swing sets. (Just a guess.)
Before long John White discovered he really like the idea of the data sharing agreement. He could trade the data of other people’s children in return for corporate favors and recharging dinners. White even decided to hook up inBloom with his other clients, interests like all the Course Choice providers written down in his little black book.
Eventually people caught onto this arrangement between John White and inBloom and White claimed in this Monroe News Star article in April 19th that he had “withdrawn” all data from inBloom out of an abundance of care for parents. Nevertheless White repeatedly refused to allow anyone to see the letter or correspondence he sent to inBloom to cancel the contract, as well as the original contract that was signed, but told parents and BESE members to just “trust him.” Numerous Freedom of Information requests were filed by retired educator and former BESE candidate Lee Barios of www.Geauxteacher.net and Tom Aswell from Louisiana Voice, and BESE member Lottie Beebe (a first for BESE needing to file a formal request for public records that White claimed publicly existed) yet it took a filed lawsuit for White to finally produce the necessary documents a few days before the June 6th BESE meeting for John White to produce the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and Service agreement contract between inBloom and the Louisiana Department of Education.
I saw reviewed some of this contract on my smartphone, after just a few minutes and noticed quite a few alarming details right off the back. I did my best to bring these to the attention of BESE when I was my turn to speak (for a few minutes) and left notes for others to cover in their time allocations, however it was clear I needed to review this in more detail.
After leaving the BESE meeting I did review this contract and wrote up a point by point review of nearly the entire “service contract” which was way more scary and far reaching than had been revealed until this point. I also forwarded my review to every BESE member although none responded to me about this analysis.
Some key points of my review:
- inBloom was secretly contracted to take over numerous reports for state and federal reporting
- InBloom can infinitely subcontract any and all work to anyone they choose without recourse or input from LDOE/customer (14.3)
- inBloom can sell off entire contract to any other non-profit for any reason and with no input or recourse for LDOE (14.1)
- much more data was to be contained on inBloom’s database despite the shifty assurances White made otherwise (Attachment E paragraph 2 and 3)
- A certified letter was required to cancel the contract, and it took 90 days for that cancellation to be considered final (8.2 &14.6)
- Insurance obtained for security breaches/violations is minimal, less than a dollar per every student that might be retained on database and is only required to be retained for “intial term” (13)
- inBloom does not warrant usage is compliant with FERPA and that states are liable for any finding otherwise, and any/all damage done to students as a result of unauthorized usage, theft or access. (11.2)
- The contract contained a provision to renew forever if both parties mutually agreed (8)
- Audits must be performed at customer’s expense (14.2)
When news organizations started reporting that John White and Louisiana had pulled out of the inBloom project, inBloom immediately tweeted that these rumors were false and the coverage was incorrect.
When they were contacted for specifics they claimed Louisiana was still a partner, just taking a “pause” in their relationship. Nevertheless many states and school districts started pulling out of the inBloom project as coverage about the dangers this posed, and parental objections gained steam and visibility in the mainstream media such as this article by Stephanie Simon from Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/03/us-education-database-idUSBRE92204W20130303
Numerous parents and local organizations and tea-party groups adopted this issue as one pertinent to themselves and their children. These folks started contacting not just BESE but local legislators and even their federal Senators and Representatives to register their displeasure over what was going on. Many of these groups have urged out state legislators to create and implement Louisiana’s own privacy law that would be stricter than the federal FERPA regulations that have recently been gutted by US Department of Education policy which as triggered at least one lawsuit by EPIC, a national privacy advocacy organization. However lawsuits take time, and privacy and sensitive personal information, once shared over an internet based data Cloud, will never be possible to reclaim and secure.
Unbeknownst to many of us John White secretly tried to silence his critics by slyly sending out a certified cancellation notice to inBloom (although months after he’ already claimed to have done so.) White made sure to mention he had contacted inBloom April 19th, which he asserts was a cancellation of his contract with them. However, the contract he signed does not allow a cancellation of this kind. It requires a certified letter, as I pointed out at the June BESE meeting and in my blog. This letter was only sent to select BESE members that support White and a few legislators working on possible privacy legislation, no doubt to assuage their fears, discredit his critics (like me), and to divert attention from Louisiana passing its own privacy legislation in the near future. Whatever other reasons he may have had, at least I counted this as a belated victory. You can see White’s letter below.
However what I discovered not long after this was this was actually the second letter involved. The first letter was sent to John White by inBloom cancelling their agreement first.
3525 Piedmont Road
7 Piedmont Center
Atlanta, GA 30305
June 17, 2013
am writing, pursuant to section 8.2 of inBloom’s Services Agreement with the state of Louisiana, to formally conclude our relationship and terminate that agreement.
Yes. John White actually received a “Dear John” letter from inBloom, but they didn’t exactly let him off easy. John White claimed he never sent SSN’s to inBloom and that student data was never in danger. No so, says the CEO of inBloom in their own letter which I assume must have been sent “certified” to actually terminate their contract pursuant to section 8.2 (which they mention) and 14.6.
In ending our relationship, I want to reiterate some facts that have been the subject of discussion between us and about our work together.
As you know, the contract between inBloom and Louisiana explicitly prohibits the storage of student social security numbers (SSNs) unless there are extenuating circumstances, and an amendment of the contract is signed by both parties. We understand that you inherited Louisiana’s practice of using SSNs and that many states and districts across the nation are in similar situations and grappling with this issue now. During the course of planning for implementation in Louisiana, the inBloom team engaged in discussions with state personnel regarding how the state might transition from the use of SSNs to randomized student I.D. numbers. As we worked through this issue and to support the state¹s Course Choice program, it came to inBloom’s attention that Louisiana was nevertheless uploading student SSNs to its secure storage space on the inBloom system.
Not only did John White undeniably send SSN’s to inBloom, he did so in violation of his own agreement and own contract and after being repeatedly warned in numerous discussions not to do so. He did so, recklessly, and with a perfectly functioning alternative, Louisiana’s GUID which was developed as part of a 4 million dollar IES grant I worked on. LEDRS created a de-identified number that was supposed to be used in lieu of ever using a SSN on any report or data transmission, let alone a complete transmission to an external third party that asked not to receive it. White even lied to inBloom stating their had no alternative, when clearly that is no-where near accurate.
But maybe there was just some miscommunication?
What do you say, inBloom CEO Iwan Streichenberger?
We acknowledge that discussions were held regarding whether Louisiana could receive a waiver in accordance with the language in the contract. As you know, however, that matter was discussed and rejected, and inBloom did not issue a waiver for Louisiana. Consistent with best practices and based on our recent experiences, we have since changed our policies to prohibit even a temporary waiver, so that no SSNs are uploaded to inBloom‘s system.
Yikes. That seems to leave very little doubt as to who spoiled this relationship as well as the less than amicable situation these two terminated their data tryst. There never was and never will be a waiver. It’s not us, John White, it’s you. Iwan ends his breakup with this last note.
I hope ongoing discussions with your stakeholders progress positively, and we remain very supportive of the work you are doing to create a strong data and technology infrastructure to support personalized learning in schools. Please let us know if we can be of any help as you work with stakeholders to build the necessary foundation. I am hopeful that the early implementers of the inBloom system will develop a broad knowledge base, which can help to inform the work in other states and districts across the country, including Louisiana
At least Iwan gives White a little hope for the future: “We weren’t the vendor for you John, but there are plenty of all vendor fish in the sea! One of them has to be right for your level of ignorance and irresponsibility.”
Here is Iwan’s full letter. Boy, nice pic Iwan. You certainly look like you’ve moved on.
It appears the June 28th letter from John White was a face saving move after he was dumped by Iwan on the 17th. However White wanted to make sure it was he who dumped Iwan back in April. Very mature, White.
I don’t think White expected both of these letters to fall into the hands of his detractors, but he did try to use them to fend off Louisiana from adopting its own privacy laws while he’s out on the prowl, looking for new relationships with vendors. One of my readers send in the following picture which I’m told was taken in front of the State Capital gardens while John White was looking to pick up some new vendors for data “relations.”
I’ve actually heard White has a few new likely candidates, namely Ed-Fi, whom he has been sending LDOE staff to districts directly to pimp out as an inBloom alternative, and a backdoor sharing agreement with the Workforce Commission to send DOE student data to another state agency for sharing with the Feds. I will have more on those developments later. However I would like to reiterate that it is imperative that Louisiana pass its own student privacy laws that supersede the federal laws; Louisiana laws that actually protect our students from out-of-state data pimps, like John White. White and his ilk will never stop trying to sell out our children for future favors, profit, or just for fun. Time and again he has proven he is lying, to reporters, parents legislators, and BESE, hiding information, and managing elected officials behind the scenes with false or misleading information. He has zero credibility on this issue (or any issue, but certainly here.)
Actual “unadulterated” letters below: (for the purists)