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Students: The one group missing from student data privacy laws and bills

The one group missing in the conversation about student privacy rights is the very group existing and proposed laws are designed to protect. If you read the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) or the proposed bills including the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015 proposed by Representatives Luke Messer (R-IN) and Jared Polis (D-CO), they are all about parental rights but only empower students once they turn 18.

I was pleased to see danah boyd weigh-in (all links below) on this subject, which I’ve been speaking about for several months but hadn’t yet gotten around to writing about.

Student intellectual property rights

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 11.46.52 AMAs I said at a recent White House meeting with staff from the  Office of Science and Technology Policy and at a recent Berkman Center student privacy event, we need to craft legislation that also protects students’ rights to their own data. That not only means that students should have the right to protect their privacy but also the right to retain their data and intellectual property to use as they wish at any time in their lives.

Most of the existing and proposed legislation gives parents the right to control student data until the student turns 18 and that control could include the ability to order the deletion of that material. But what if the student doesn’t want it deleted?  Consider the rights of an LGBT student who writes a school essay on sexual orientation. Could that student’s parent order it be deleted from school servers or the servers of companies contracted by the school?  What about a student who is exploring political or religious issues that may disagree with their parents views? Does that student have any rights?

Does student privacy extend to their parents?

And what about a student’s right to privacy. In most states (and with a few exceptions) what a minor says to a doctor is confidential — even to their parents. But aren’t there circumstances when that ought to apply to what is said to a teacher? Maybe that LGBT student doesn’t want his or her parents to see what they’ve written on a school paper. What about a student who writes about abuse by their own parent. Must that parent have the right to see that essay?

I’m not suggesting that parents not have rights. I think they should have the right to look at their student’s’ records but I think that students — even before they turn 18 — should have at least as many rights as parents. It’s about time we start to respect privacy, free speech rights and intellectual property rights of children.

Boyd points out some other important considerations including the rights of economically disadvantaged children “who are already under constant surveillance.” And she is correct that, most of the issues addressed in proposed legislation “are shaped by the fears of privileged parents.” While it’s great to protect students from marketers, those who might want to seduce them into debt and those who might want to harm them in other ways, it’s also important to protect children from those in law enforcement, education, government and even the student’s family who might seek to violate their privacy. As boyd has pointed out in other writings, for many youth, privacy is not so much a matter of keeping data away from companies and big government, but from parents, educators and law enforcement who have a direct impact over the students’ lives and freedoms.

Policy recommendations

While all of the proposed bills offer some important protections, it’s important to both extend those protections so that they empower students themselves, including those under 18, and that they avoid any unintended consequences such as denying students the right to maintain their records, suppressing the use of innovative services or apps, or violating students’ intellectual property rights over material they have produced that may be stored on school servers or commercial servers affected by existing or proposed laws. As we consider regulations to control services not operated directly by schools, it’s important to realize that some of the most innovative and useful services have yet to be created and are likely to come from entrepreneurs — some who will be students themselves. We don’t want to regulate so tightly that students and teachers are forbidden to use such services, including commercial services that have great educational value even if they aren’t specifically aimed at education.

It’s also important to recognize that there is no such thing as privacy without adequate security and that securing school servers is an expensive proposition that Congress should consider funding. Congress should also recognize that neither laws nor technologies can protect privacy and security unless the student, teachers, administrators or parents know how to protect their own data and data under their custody. All stakeholders need education on best-practices for privacy and security including creating and managing unique and secure passwords, knowing what is and isn’t appropriate to post or submit and to understand that these laws do not apply to all media, such as social media accounts that students set up on their own, even if they are used at school.


Which Students Get to Have Privacy? (by danah boyd)

A Parents’ Guides to Student Data Privacy (ConnectSafely, Future of Privacy Forum & PTA)

Bills and laws

Messer, Polis Introduce Landmark Bill to Protect Student Data Privacy

Klein and Scott house draft bill to update FERPA

Markey, Hatch Senate bill to amend FERPA

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) 


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Podcasts and streaming music reach mainstream moment

This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News
This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

It appears that both music streaming and podcasts are finally becoming a part of mainstream life, but that has taken more than 20 years of work. And some new changes to the most popular music streaming services could nudge them farther along.

It was 1994 when Rob Glaser, an entrepreneur from Seattle, came to my house to show me the new RealAudio streaming service from his startup, RealNetworks. I was amazed when he made it possible to upload audio to the Internet that anyone could listen to just like radio.

I was actually a bit of a pioneer in the Internet radio business back in 2000 as one of the first employees of RedBand Broadcasting, where I hosted a weekly show called “Palo Alto Café,” named after a real coffee shop I frequented. The company and the show only lasted for a few months but — as I look back at that experience — I realize that we were creating “podcasts” four years before the term was coined.

In 2005, I jumped back into podcasting with a show called “LarrysWorld” that was produced and distributed by IT Conversations, a now-defunct very early podcasting network started by Doug Kaye. I remember Doug’s incredibly high production values. All my podcasts were worked on by audio engineers to assure the highest possible audio quality — a process that sometimes took weeks.

I loved Doug’s commitment to quality but, because much of what I did got stale pretty quickly, I needed a venue that could get my audio up immediately. For that, I turned to CBS News, which still carries my podcasts as well as my daily broadcasts.

Around June of 2005, I made the biggest mistake of my career. An Apple PR person called to secretly reveal that Apple was about to add podcasting to iTunes and offered me an exclusive: An audio interview with then-CEO Steve Jobs that would have been iTunes’ first podcast.

I was about to leave for Europe and stupidly turned down the opportunity. In retrospect, I should have canceled that trip.

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NPR’s Serial put podcasting back on the map

Both podcasting and music streaming have been on a rocky road, but the future looks good. Podcasting got a shot in the arm last year with This American Life’s wildly successful nonfiction “Serial” series, in which reporter Sarah Koenig investigated whether or not a convicted killer really committed the crime he was in prison for. It was downloaded more than 68 million times, CBS News reported earlier this year.

And music streaming is also doing well, sort of. Millions of people are listening to Pandora, Spotify, Rdio and other services though most are struggling financially.

Pandora is worth nearly $4 billion, but it has never turned an annual profit. Spotify, according to The New York Times, recorded $1.3 billion in revenue in 2014 but lost $197 million, up from a $68 million loss in 2013. Rdio, a private company, doesn’t publish its financials.

These companies have to pay royalties to musicians and labels, but professional musicians — including my son, Will Magid — tell me that they earn a tiny amount of money, even if their songs are quite popular.

While the economics of streaming have yet to work out, listeners are starting to tune in. Much of that, I think, is because of the ubiquity of cell phones and the fact that audio streaming doesn’t use nearly as much bandwidth as video, which makes it affordable to play audio even when connected by cellular. That enables people to enjoy streaming while driving, at the gym or while out walking or running.

When I’m driving, I divide my time between terrestrial news radio and either podcasts or music. I had an XM satellite radio for a while, but discontinued the service because I can get great content through my phone, which connects through Bluetooth to my car’s audio system.

Two recent announcements and a likely upcoming one could breath new life into the streaming market. A couple of weeks ago, Rdio announced a $3.99-a-month streaming service that lets you listen to and download up to 25 songs a day. Your downloads max out at 25 (older songs are erased as new ones are added) but for those of us who have limited time to listen to music, this is a good deal compared to the usual $10 monthly fee for unlimited streaming.

And Spotify, which offers $10-a-month unlimited service along with a free ad-supported option, upped its game on Wednesday, announcing the addition of video and podcasts. It is also adding an innovative feature that uses the phone’s motion sensors to measure your footsteps so that it can deliver music that matches the beat of your feet while keeping you motivated to run even faster.

But, as they say, “It ain’t over till fat lady sings” and Apple is the fat cat in the digital music business. The company is expected to announce it own digital music streaming service at the annual Wordwide Wide Developers’ Conference in San Francisco on June 8th.

If Apple does wind up re-branding and reinvigorating the Beats music service that it acquired last year, it could be an even bigger shot-in-the-arm for streaming music than Serial has been for podcasts.


Spotify adds video, podcasts and a running feature

Spotify, which offers a $10 a month music subscription service plus a free advertiser-supported music streaming service is adding new features including video clips, podcasts and a feature that uses your phone’s gyroscope and accelerometer to measure the pace of your running and pick out music whose beat matches the beat of your feet and keeps you motivated (see video for an example).  The company claims that it has “combined the best music on the planet – recommendations based on your listening history, its play lists and  original running compositions written by “some of the world’s foremost DJs and composers.”  The company is working with Nike to help develop the music and will add the service to Nike’s RunKeeper app.

The service is also launching its “Now start page” designed to serve up “the right music day and night.” The music will vary depending on the day of the week and the time of the day to give you a “Monday morning playlist pick-me-up” or the tunes you’re likely to appreciate after lunch. The app will observe your behavior and figure out what you like and when you like it to fit  your taste and mood.

Spotify will be featuring content from of ABC, Adult Swim, BBC, Comedy Central, Condé Nast Entertainment, ESPN, Fusion, Maker Studios, NBCUniversal, TBS, TED and Vice Media.

New content will include  radio shows including conversations between artists and personalities along with Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Dance Move of the Day video.

More on the new features from CNET News.

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On CNET News: ‘Asus chairman: Unlocked phones will unlock the US market for us’

“Asus is the world’s fifth-largest PC manufacturer, but wants to expand its presence in the faster-growing mobile business, where it has a minimal presence in the US. It hopes to change that by pitching attractively priced smartphones directly to customers, tapping into the market of consumers who eschew traditional wireless service contracts.”

Read the full post at CNET News


Most teens don’t use anonymous apps but here’s advice for those who do

A study published in April by Pew Research found that only 11% of cell phone owning teens use anonymous question and anser apps like Yik-Yak, Whisper and Girls (13%) are more likely than boys (8%) to use such apps as are Hispanics (16%) compared to whites/non-Hispanic (9%) and Black, non-Hispanic (7%).

And while the study didn’t touch on safe use, there is no question that some kids (and adults) abuse these services by posting mean comments or inappropriate images. Still, based on what I see, most kids who do use anonymous apps are doing so responsibly. There are plenty of positive uses of these apps including supporting people who are going through tough times, exploring religious or political views or simply satisfying your curiosity about a subject. They can also be used to poll your friends and strangers on a variety of subjects.

Random posts from

As an example, I took a look at six  random posts on are here are the ones that popped up. None are mean or inappropriate:

  • When you feel sad, what cheers you up?
  • What’s the best cheese to eat with crackers?
  • What would someone have to do to make you dislike them immediately?
    What is the most ridiculous place for a first date?

    What can totally impress you?

  • How many hours do you sleep at night?

Still, there are some things that you should watch out for.  As we wrote on ConnectSafely’s Tips for Safe and Civil use of Anonymous Apps, know how to report, get help if you’re scared, know what the app knows about you, and remember there’s no such things as complete anonymity online. There are always ways for authorities to find you. You’ll find more in the tip sheet and this advice article.

From Pew Survey reported on April 9, 2015

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Flickr Now Compelling With Free Terabyte Of Photo Storage And Redesign


It’s been years since I paid much attention to Yahoo’s Flickr but, with the new Flickr 4.0, it’s a compelling service that I’m pretty excited about. In fact, I’m so excited that I’m now about 12,000 files into uploading my entire collection of nearly the nearly 50,000 photos on my hard drive. As I write, Flickr’s uploader is scanning folders on my Mac and uploading files. It also works on PCs of course and the Flickr mobile app will upload your phone’s photos too.

Massive storage

The importance of storing your photos in the cloud can’t be overstated. If something were to happen to you computer, you could replace the software, the hardware and any music files that you downloaded or ripped but there is no way to replace personal data unless it’s backed up. And having that data backed up in the same building as your computer isn’t sufficient because — if there was a fire or other disaster — everything in the building would be at risk. Giving away a terabyte of free photo storage is a big deal because it means I no longer have to pay my cloud storage provider for that service. I’ll still keep my Sugarsync and Dropbox accounts but I’ll use a lot less storage on those now that all of my photos are on Flickr. There are other services that upload photos, including iCloud, but I’m not aware of any that offer this much space for free.

Of course, Flickr lets you download the photos at their original full resolution.

Image recognition & search

In addition to storing all your photos, Flickr also uses image recognition software to analyze, tag and sort them. I don’t quite know how it does this, but I was looking for a picture of my dog Yuri. I typed “dog” in the search engine and up came his photos. When I typed “cat” I got pictures of our dearly departed cat who left us several years ago. A few years ago I went to a wedding and, sure enough, when I searched for wedding it automatically brought up those images even though I never tagged them as such (I guess it knows what weddings usually look like). All the pictures are still intact, which is more than I can say for that marriage. You can also look at your photos in a map view. I clicked on Berlin and there were the pictures I took when I was in that city. Another feature, called Magic View, divides your photos into categories such as animal, architecture, people, food, plant, etc. It can also identify people and objects or even objects by color. By default, pictures are sorted by date. Search will first find your photos and then find publicly available photos that meet your criteria.

The uploader (called “Uploadr”) will eliminate any duplicates and, by default everything is marked as private though you do have the option to share photos if you wish.

Overall, this is an extremely impressive upgrade. Probably the biggest in Flickr’s history making the tired old photo service up-to-date and ahead of the competition.


Moral panic amidst French media reports of kids disappearing for three days in ‘Game of 72′

The French English-language news site, The Local, is reporting about a supposed game where “teenagers have come up with a new Facebook challenge that dares them disappear without a trace for up to three days without contacting their family.”

The site reports that a 13-year old girl named Emma from northern France went missing for three days but turned up safe. The site says that the girl told authority that she had taken on a dare to play the “Game of 72″ (as in disappearing for 72 hours).

The site said that French authorities have been unable to find actual Facebook postings about the game.

Fears are spreading even if the game isn’t

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 3.27.36 PMWhile the extent to which the game actually exists remains in doubt, that hasn’t stopped police authorities and media outlets from raising alarms. The Canadian Global News site reports that police in Vancouver, BC are warning parents about the game, which, according to the site, requires that kids not “tell anyone where they are and the more mayhem and panic that is caused, the more points that teen is awarded.” Vancouver police are not aware of any actual cases of the game. British tabloid, Mirror, speculates that the game might have been responsible for the temporary disappearance of a couple of schoolgirls, but there is only speculation — no real evidence.

Moral panics

While such a game — if it actually exists — is indeed troubling, the stories about it strike me as yet another example of the endless series of moral panics over children’s online safety. The past two decades have been full of media stories about children endangered by online threats beginning with concerns over pornography and then what the “predator panic” of about a decade ago when parents were receiving regular warnings about online predators trolling for their children. The TV show “To Catch a Predator” didn’t calm any fears nor did the many state Attorneys General who issued stern warnings about a problem that, statistically, turned out to be extremely rare. That panic subsided after numerous research reports (and a task force convened by 49 attorneys general, the Internet Safety Technical Task Force that concluded that the threat was far less than had been reported).

There have been other moral panics involving youth including cyberbullying and sexting which, generally, turn out to be far less of an issue than many fear. That’s not to say that kids aren’t been affected by these things — bullying has had a severe impact on some children and there are genuine cases of sexting gone wrong that’s been quite hurtful — but exaggerating the risk and the consequences doesn’t help anyone. What I believe does help is research-based information such as these sexting tips and A Parents’ Guide to Cyberbullying from, the non-profit Internet safety organization where I serve as CEO.

Talk with your children

As always, stories about so-called threats like the Game of 72 represent an opportunity for parents to speak with their children. This is a great time to sit down with your kids to ask if they have ever heard of such a game and let them know what you think about it. Or maybe just speak with your kids about something else — almost anything. It’s not about lecturing or warning but about communicating and staying in close touch. Remember, most kids don’t play dangerous games even though nearly all teens test their limits in ways that are mostly healthy.

Ron Johnson, CEO

Former Apple retail exec Ron Johnson launches Enjoy, a Genius Bar on wheels

This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News
This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

Ron Johnson, who helped create Apple’s wildly successful retail stores, is now trying to reinvent e-tailing with a Genius Bar that makes house calls.

When you order a tech product from Johnson’s new company, Enjoy, an expert delivers the product and spends up to an hour setting it up and teaching you how to use it for free. Johnson, who helped bring design and classier products to Target before he joined Apple and subsequently served as CEO of JC Penney, said that “the most important thing I learned from Day One is that it’s all about the customer.”

At Apple, Johnson said he “learned there that even with a company that focuses on the easiest to use products, customers still love help.”

I get what Johnson is trying to accomplish. In today’s highly connected world, even relatively simple tech products are increasingly complex to configure because many them need to work with other products, creating almost infinite opportunities for something to go wrong. (more…)


Lowe’s installs 3D scanning and printing in Silicon Valley hardware store

3D printer (not actual model used at OSH)

The Orchard Supply Hardware store in Mountain View, which is owned by Lowe’s, is taking a baby step toward a future where instead of just selling products, they’ll be able to help customers build their own.

Imagine going into a store with a broken knob from an antique cabinet and walking out with a brand-new identical item, even though the company that made that knob might have gone out of business a century ago. Or perhaps you fancy a customized lightswitch plate with your family crest or company logo, or a personalized case for your smartphone.


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Samsung and Sprint ‘Try Harder’ With Galaxy S6 and improved network

For five decades, Avis used the advertising slogan “We Try Harder” to promote how the car rental company went out of its way to compete with the industry leader.

The slogan was retired in 2012 but maybe Avis should consider turning it over to Samsung and Sprint.

Great strides

In the United States smartphone market, Samsung is #2 behind Apple and, when it comes to carriers, AT&T and Verizon duke it out for the number one spot while Sprint holds on to third place, with T-Mobile nipping at its heels. Based on what I’m experiencing from the Galaxy S6 that Sprint loaned me, both companies are making great strides.

Others have reviewed the Galaxy S6, so I’ll be brief. It’s slick and attractive enough to take the smug look off the face of any iPhone 6 user (to be fair, only a tiny percentage of iPhone users are smug about their phone) and it’s packed with enough power and features to satisfy the pickiest of cell phone aficionados. (more…)