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Katherine Albrecht, Ed. D.

The Merger of Corporation and State

Fort Fairfield Journal, June 26, 2013

There's so much happening now on the privacy front; the technology front; the spiritual front. Everywhere we turn things are really heating up and hopping very, very quickly. All of the different issues we talk about on my radio program, have kind of a similar feel to them. Someone's trying to either invade your privacy, or step on your rights in one way or another, or limit your ability to travel, or send e-mail privately, etc. They really all converge in the same place - the ultimate and total surveillance of everyone on the planet and everything that you do with an end to ultimately controlling what it is that you are able to do and set conditions for you to be able to do those things.

One of the issues that we've talked a lot about is the tracking of children in schools. This is an issue that is particularly relevant to me. I actually have a doctorate in education from Harvard University, it's in human development and psychology from the Harvard graduate school of education, so education has really been my life. I worked my way through college as a private tutor. I ran a tutoring agency and did educational consulting for many years. I've been a classroom teacher at the middle school and high school level and I've worked with literally thousands of students over the years. So, education is something that is really near and dear to my heart. I view my radio program as an extension of that educational mission.

That is why the two worlds of all the privacy work I've been doing since 1999 as a privacy advocate and the educational surveillance that is occurring are really beginning to converge. They're coming together, they're coming after our children. We as a nation have sent our children to government institutions to be educated, so it's no surprise that given the government agenda is to maximally capture, observe, surveille and control the personal lives of individuals that that would be happening in our schools.

For example, the State of Massachusetts is in the process of setting up a huge database of children's personal and sensitive information that would then be shared with private companies so that those private companies could deliver what they call “personalized instruction” to children. What we have here is using the power of the State and the State's access to all of this incredibly sensitive information who then turn around and give it to companies to profit off of. This information includes things like children's home addresses, their e-mail address, their test scores, their racial identity, whether they're a special ed student, even things like detailed disciplinary records. All of this information would be uploaded into a database and shared with private companies.

Now, I've often thought that when the framers of the Constitution were thinking about what the threats were, they actually built in a separation of church and state because back then they knew that the big power, aside from the government, was the church. So, there was a concern that these two very powerful entities might get together and gang up on and collude to take away the rights of the third apex of that triangle - that's We the People.

I think if the framers of the U.S. Constitution were reframing it today, they would, instead of putting in a separation of church and state, put in a separation of corporation and state. If you think about where we are in the power differential between the big forces that would control our lives, back in 1776 it really was the church and the government. But today it really is these big corporations: the Googles, the McDonalds, the IBMs, the Adidas and Nike, who want to collect information about us and our children, they want to manipulate and control information about us and they are in collusion in so many cases with the government.

The corporations who would want this information about school children are corporations like Scholastic, Pearson, and other companies that make educational products. They're claiming the reason that this would be helpful to have this information is that they would be able to do personalized learning. It's part of this vision of education where teachers essentially become data collectors, collecting information about their students which is then uploaded to the cloud and using algorithms personalized lessons are designed for the students that then get sent back to the teacher who just hands over an Ipad to the student which then takes the teacher out of the equation and it then becomes a relationship between the student and the corporation.

The problem is a number of these corporations have other divisions where this information could be extremely profitable beyond the intended purposes. There are no safeguards in place to ensure that this information is only going to go to the people who are designing these personalized lessons.

In 1999 I got started as a privacy advocate worrying about supermarket cards that were collecting detailed records of people's food purchases. The grocery stores said they were only using it for marketing purposes and to make sure the shelves are stocked. I said no, you're going to use it for something worse. There's a fundamental rule, kind of like Murphy's Law, I call Albrecht's Law and that rule says if you collect the data and you put it in a database, somebody else is going to want it every time, without exception.

I've got to say even if it was just Scholastic that was getting a hold of these kids' records, I would still be very concerned - even if I trusted them with my life - as to who is going to want those records next.

This editorial was transcribed and adapted for print from a recent Katherine Albrecht radio program, by David Deschesne, with her permission.  Dr. Katherine Albrecht, Ed. D. is a syndicated radio talk show host on the Genesis Communication Network. Listen to her program live daily, or download her podcast for listening at any time at Katherine’s website is: