Education

Gates’ ed-tech nonprofit inBloom folds over data privacy worries

withering flower

It turns out parents and school districts are skeptical about companies that want to collect large amounts of data on their children.

Shocker.

Faced with major public pushback and a string of lost contracts, inBloom has decided to shut its doors, said CEO Iwan Streichenberger in a statement posted on the nonprofit’s website today.

The controversial ed-tech organization collected information on students, like grades and attendance, in an effort to improve education by leveraging data. But parents and educators argued that some of the data being collected on millions of school children — from health data and sensitive family history to social security numbers — was far too personal and unsafe in the hands of a third party.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations and the Carnegie Corporation of New York backed inBloom with $100 million in initial funding. They thought the organization could help teachers give students more effective, personalized attention.

Streichenberger contends that inBloom was a safe and responsible venture, labeling public criticism “misdirected.”

“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,” Streichenberger wrote.

Several states that had initially partnered with inBloom later pulled out of the program. Louisiana decided to pull student data from the database after parents protested that school districts were sharing their kids’ social security numbers. This month, New York also pulled out of the program. (New York lawmakers had just passed legislation barring the state’s department of education from handing over student data to aggregators like inBloom.)

New York’s departure served as the final blow for inBloom.

“We stepped up to the occasion and supported our partners with passion,” Streichenberger said, “but we have realized that this concept is still new, and building public acceptance for the solution will require more time and resources than anyone could have anticipated.”

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