The affiliate, Wireless Generation, already has access to sensitive data about city students. If the contract wins final approval under a state review process, the firm would have access to information on students from across New York as part of a project to track test scores and other data.
"It is really disturbing to know that DOE and soon the state Ed Department have hired a Murdoch company to work on our children's data," said Patrick Sullivan, a parent leader on the city's Panel for Educational Policy.
"I certainly don't want to do any more business with News Corp., and I want to look at what recourse we have to exit the Wireless Generation contracts." City Education Department officials noted yesterday the company would be breaking the law if it used private information - including students' name, ethnicity, test scores, age and home addresses - for its own purposes.
"It is entirely inappropriate to speculate about hypothetical wrongdoing or engage in this kind of innuendo against an organization, when there has been no indication or accusation of misuse of student information," said General Counsel Michael Best.
But Mark Johnson, a spokesman for Controller Thomas DiNapoli, acknowledged yesterday that the hacking scandal engulfing News Corp.-owned British tabloids could factor in the state review process for the Wireless Generation contract.
Business ethics for affiliated firms are considered as part of an official review for awarding any contract. The controller's office has until early September to accept the contract.
State Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn stood by the decision to award Wireless Generation the contract, noting safeguards were in place to secure student confidentiality.
Wireless Generation vice president Joan Lebow also dismissed any connection to the tabloids' wrongdoings, which she noted "took place years before" News Corp. acquired the company last fall.
"Wireless Generation is an independent subsidiary and does not share student data with News Corp. or any other News Corp. subsidiary or entity," she said. firstname.lastname@example.org