The New York Times reports that the InBloom Student Data Repository created several years ago with $100 million in seed money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has run into fierce opposition in places like Louisiana, New York and Colorado from parents and others concerned about student data privacy. Opposition has become so fierce that InBloom will shut down completely.
InBloom’s extensive data collection set, which sounds similar to the federal Next Education Data Model (both feature over 400 data items), raised lots of eyebrows. According to the Times and information in InBloom’s own web site, some of those data points could include:
• Family relationships (“foster parent” or “father’s significant other”),
• Reasons for enrollment changes (“withdrawn due to illness” or “leaving school as a victim of a serious violent incident”),
• Student social security numbers (a huge magnet for identity thieves),
• Details on arrests and in-school violations of behavior codes, including the type of weapon, if used and
• Disabilities listing.
Parents objected that they didn’t want such sensitive information provided to third-party vendor organizations like InBloom.
InBloom intended to provide lots of data analysis to teachers, supposedly to help teach better, but questions arose as to the likely accuracy and appropriateness of some of the analysis.
Kentucky considered InBloom at one point but never joined that system. However, Kentucky uses a similar web-based student data repository called Infinite Campus which may collect much of the same data as InBloom did. There is growing unease about the protection and privacy of that data system as evidenced by the introduction of Senate Bill 224 in the past legislative session, which would have added considerable protection for Kentucky’s student data. That bill only received a hearing in the Senate Education Committee, however.
Now, with InBloom shutting its doors despite its multi-million-dollar sponsorship by one of the digital computer world’s leading titans, questions regarding Infinite Campus may become an increasing concern in the Bluegrass State.