Gates-backed inBloom winding down after non-profit faces concerns over privacy

Iwan-w-BillG-715x378InBloom, which was backed by $100 million from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others, is closing up shop after parents worried that its database technology was violating their children’s privacy.

InBloom’s CEO Iwan Streichenberger explained in a letter on the non-profit’s site this morning: “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.”

The goal of tracking the information was to give educators a better, more cost effective way to track students’ individual learning needs, the non-profit argued.

But in New York, Streichenberger said the misunderstandings about what they were trying to accomplish that led to a recent passage of legislation that would “severely” restrict the education department from contracting with outside companies for storing, organizing, or aggregating student data, “even where those companies provide demonstrably more protection for privacy and security than the systems currently in use.”

To that end, he said the board of directors and inBloom’s financial backers made the decision to wind down the organization over the coming months. InBloom’s site is already not functioning except for the homepage.

There is plenty of documentation still on the Internet, however, detailing how inBloom enraged parents.

A New York Daily News story captured how furious parents were, quoting one as saying “I send my child to school to be educated. I never agreed to have his information shared with private companies or stored in a database.”

InBloom, which began as the Shared Learning Collaborative, received $100 million in seed money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with Carnegie Corporation of New York, according to The New York Times, which covered the non-profit’s decision to close its doors today.

It reports that the inBloom database could track 400 different data fields about students, including details such as family relationships, reasons for enrollment changes (such as sicknesses, or being a victim of a serious violent incident). It is these fields that parents objected to, saying that a third-party vendor should not have such private information.

The opposition wasn’t limited to New York, but to Louisiana, too.

Bill Gates frequently discusses how important data is in the future of education. He gave the keynote at the SXSWedu conference last year, and interviewed Streichenberger on stage.

  • guest

    Parents would prefer to stick their heads in the sand.

  • TimothyG

    And this is why educational software is so terrible. Your link to the NYDN piece kind of buried the lede, since it quotes the now-Mayor of NYC doing his own scaremongering about the service. That might explain at least a little.

  • John Davis

    Soundsl iek a pretty solid deal to me dude.
    Anon-VPN dot Com

  • panacheart

    The NSA can’t even keep private information safe, so I understand parents’ concerns.

    Gates seems to have an almost obsessive need to track and quantify, but experience with Microsoft tells us that information like that often doesn’t help. If the competitive analysis dog and pony shows at Microsoft are any indication, in many cases groups spent more time tracking and quantifying the competition than they did actually doing something. And now many of those groups are gone, or severely marginalized in the market. All that time spent on quantifying data could have been better spent actually doing, risking, trying.

    I would argue that the $100 million dollars spent on tracking and quantifying would have been far better spent by putting full college courses online for free. Knowledge is power, and if you want to really empower lower class families and developing nations, give them free access to quality educational material. Not just random lectures, but full courses. The only statistics you’ll need to track the success are web logs showing its use. The anecdotal stories will soon follow.

  • Jane Archer

    inBloom was created by a partnership between Rupert Murdoch (yes, THE Rupert Murdoch of Fox News) and Bill Gates (THE Bill Gates who ‘created’ Microsoft using the family fortune that derived from their involvement in the US Eugenics movement).

    inBloom was named for the way Victorian pedophiles referred to their child targets (whom they described as “in bloom”). This ‘in your face’ sickness is a common feature of the elites behind the full surveillance society. Spy projects of the NSA and GCHQ were given similar sickening names.

    inBloom has NOT vanished. Gates and Murdoch wanted to know if the sheeple would stand for such a visible abuse of their families and their children. The answer was “not yet”. So inBloom is transferred to the package of full surveillance operations ‘covertly’ run by the NSA. Schools in the USA will be ‘encouraged’ to hold their data on fully compromised ‘cloud’ systems that, at best, encrypt using fully broken encryption methods. The NSA can mine this data daily, and move the results onto the ‘inbloom’ code base that now exists in NSA facilities.

  • Susan S

    Guarantee this is not gone, but hidden.