A company on the cutting of collecting vast amounts of personal information about American students is shutting down because of privacy concerns.
Iwan Streichenberger, CEO of inBloom, posted a notice on the company’s website explaining the closure.
“It is a shame that the progress of this important innovation has been stalled because of generalized public concerns about data misuse, even though inBloom has world-class security and privacy protections that have raised the bar for school districts and the industry as a whole,” he wrote.
He explained the organization was set up in 2011 to collect data that would give teachers “a more complete picture of student progress.”
Streichenberger said he signed on to the project in November 2012 “because I passionately believe that technology has the potential to dramatically improve education.”
“My belief in that mission is as strong today as it ever was. Students, teachers and parents deserve the best tools and resources available, and we cannot afford to wait,” he said.
Over the last year, he said, “the incredibly talented team at inBloom has developed and launched a technical solution that addresses the complex challenges that teachers, educators and parents face when trying to best utilize the student data available to them.”
“That solution can provide a high impact and cost-effective service to every school district across the country, enabling teachers to more easily tailor education to students’ individual learning needs.”
But he charged that the idea of compiling detailed information about students so that technology can be used to “tailor instruction” has been “the subject of mischaracterizations and a lightning rod for misdirected criticism.”
In response to the criticism, however, New York state passed a law that would prevent educators from “contracting with outside companies like inBloom for storing, organizing, or aggregating student data.”
He said getting the public to agree to his vision of monitoring students and assembling detailed information about them “will require more time and resources than anyone could have anticipated.”
The Electronic Privacy Information Center didn’t share Streichenberger’s enthusiasm for inBloom’s work.
“InBloom and other companies, including Google, acquired student data following revisions to the Family Educational Rights and Private Act by the Department of Education that significantly weakened the student privacy law,” the organization said.
“In 2012, EPIC sued the Education Department for removing student private protections. Last year, EPIC testified before the Colorado State Board of Education on student privacy issues concerning inBloom. Early this year, EPIC called for a Student Privacy Bill of Rights, an enforceable student privacy and data security framework.”
WND also reported the nation’s leading homeschooling organization, the Home School Legal Defense Association, has warned parents that the federal government has moved forward with plans to identify and track students throughout their school careers, from birth through college graduation, with structures like inBloom’s.
But there’s really no need for the government to track such data, he insisted.
“A national database of student-specific data is very concerning for many reasons,” he wrote. “The national databases being created now include detailed records of students, including race, gender, birth information, learning disabilities, detailed academic records, and much more. This information is being collected soon after birth, all the way through graduation from college.”
Estrada said the more personal the information, “the greater the danger to the student’s privacy and safety if the data is breached.”
“Will certain data make it harder for students to get into higher education? Will it be disclosed to government employers, or even private employers?” he asked.
“Government tracking students from soon after birth until they graduate from college is Orwellian and seems like a ‘Big Brother’ mentality, and has no place in a free society,” he said.
InBloom was part of a chain of groups and organizations that had begun collecting individualized student data files. The database already included details on students from Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina and Massachusetts.
The files contained Social Security number, attendance, test scores, homework completion, career goals, learning disabilities, hobbies and attitudes.
The main funder of the $100 million Big Brother-type effort was the Gates Foundation, along with the Carnegie Corp. of New York.
After Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify Education, a division of News Corp, spent more than a year developing the system’s infrastructure, the Gates Foundation delivered it to inBloom.
InBloom did not specify what would happen to the data it has accumulated.
EPIC administrative counsel Khaliah Barnes told the New York Daily News that very issue was a concern.
“What happens if a company using the data is compromised? What happens if the company goes out of business? We don’t know the answers,” Barnes said.
To counter Gates’ school database project, ParentalRights.org, which advocates for the rights and responsibilities of the basic family unit, urges Americans to sign a petition supporting the Parental Rights Amendment, which would codify the fundamental right of parents in the U.S. Constitution to direct the upbringing, education and care of their children.