Controversial education tech company InBloom has shut down over student data privacy concerns.
Backed with $100 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, InBloom quickly announced nine states (CO, DE, GA, IL, KY, LA, MA, NC, NY) as partners, with more than 2.7 million students enrolled, with the goal of using big data to direct education emphasis and other decisions. With a recent decision by New York state to halt participation in any project involving storing student data in the way InBloom had planned
(and the deletion of any such data already stored), all nine states had either put data sharing plans with InBloom on hold, made them voluntary, or pulled out completely.
Parents and advocacy groups decried data collection efforts that pulled as many as 400 data points per student, including personally identifiable information
such as social security numbers and intimate details about family relationships and reasons for enrollment changes. Futhur, despite assurances that "the company was designed as a non-profit from the beginning to keep special interests at bay, in order to create a tool that is data, platform and user agnostic"
, activists, parents and educators lead by Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters expressed concerns that there were no guarantees that data would be secure, or that it would not be shared with third party vendors
(a claim InBloom denied).
In a final message on the Inbloom website
, CEO Iwan Streichenberger blamed the failure on "mischaracterization" and "misdirected criticism", even as he praised the InBlood team and the promise of data-driven education.
At a conference earlier this week
, U.S. Department of Education office of technology Director Richard Culatta said that private companies need to do a better job explaining privacy policies to students and parents: "It's time to say it in plain English," Culatta said. "It's time to say it in ways that teachers and parents can understand." Streichenberger, also at the conference, remained optimistic "we've come to realize that public acceptance of what inBloom does will take a long time."