May 27, 2011
A few months ago I wrote a post arguing against the federal government’s creating a student unit record data system. Such a data system would collect basic data about every student in every higher education institution and allow us to track student progress and college completion. It’s a tempting idea to be sure, but it also poses a huge invasion of privacy threat. We can, I argued, accomplish the same purposes by sampling students and giving them the option to participate or not in the data collection.
Now that proposal for a unit record data system has a new form in the Department of Education’s new proposed Gainful Employment Rule, whereby for-profit institutions and vocational programs at not-for-profits would be subject to scrutiny about how many of their students had found gainful employment in the kind of work for which they had ostensibly been prepared — and likely received federal grants and loans.
Again, tempting, but also very intrusive. The proposed rule would have the government collect income data on individuals. It’s a different kind of unit record data system — one that would create a massive database of information about individuals. Today in Inside Higher Education, Daniel Solove, a Professor at the George Washington University law School, lays out the threat to privacy.