Webcon_TE_300x250_ad_Sept_2016-01
Certification_Ad_300x250final-01
PPS16-DC_Web_300x250-COPY
InBloom Wilts Amid Privacy Backlash

Last week, Intel’s director of security policy and global privacy officer, David Hoffman, CIPP/US, wrote a Harvard Business Review piece announcing that “Privacy is a Business Opportunity.” InBloom’s demise yesterday in the face of a flurry of privacy allegations unambiguously demonstrates that privacy can also be a first-order business risk. So much so that it can bring a high-flying, much-celebrated, well-funded and strongly backed organization to its knees.

Financed with $100 million in seed money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, inBloom provided an interoperability solution designed to improve and standardize the connection among widely varied education applications. It intended to allow schools to centrally store student data in an encrypted, cloud-based system that educators could access to collect data from a variety of third-party vendors. In its mission statement, it promised to “solve a common technology issue facing school districts today: the inability of electronic instructional tools used in classrooms to work in coordination with (or ‘talk to’) one another.” It spearheaded an industry that is all the rage, education technology (ed tech), valued at approximately $8 billion with a hockey stick growth curve.

Unfortunately for inBloom, it became a bogeyman for opponents who portrayed it as a cavalier experiment in children’s data. It raised difficult questions about the reliance of the education sector on private companies and deployment of Big Data techniques in an area fraught with concerns about children’s futures. It surfaced weighty policy choices that require sophisticated technology leadership in the K-12 sector. This eventually led states to backpedal from signed transactions, culminating in New York’s noisy departure last week.

InBloom’s critics hailed its demise as “a much-needed lesson for proponents of ‘Big Data’ and ‘personalized learning.’” They argued that inBloom was designed to "facilitate the sharing of children's personal and very sensitive information with data-mining vendors, with no attention paid to the need for parental notification or consent." InBloom’s CEO responded by writing that the initiative “has been the subject of mischaracterizations and a lightning rod for misdirected criticism.”

Regardless of the merits of either of these arguments, the lesson for companies in ed tech and beyond should be loud and clear: Privacy is a core business concern. And as should be evident from the inBloom case, getting it right means a lot more than just complying with applicable laws and regulations. Privacy isn’t just about regulatory compliance. It’s about setting the tone of your message, managing consumer expectations, bringing the public along with you for the ride, avoiding privacy lurches and not being creepy. It’s more an art than a science.

Alarmingly, getting privacy wrong may mean forsaking the business altogether. As Hoffman wrote, “privacy protection should be a practice as fundamental to the business as customer service.” He conjectured that “It may take time for this idea to sink in at the highest executive levels of some companies.” Alas, for inBloom, it will be too late.

photo credit: kejadlen via photopin cc

Written By

Omer Tene

2 Comments

If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.

  • Allen Brandt Apr 22, 2014

    I think inBloom's problem started with its mission:  “solve a common technology issue facing school districts today: the inability of electronic instructional tools used in classrooms to work in coordination with (or ‘talk to’) one another.”
    
    Kids are in school to be educated. Attempting to work within a system (some might say a broken one) that is personal to both the kids and their parents, has all sorts of third parties, including teachers, administrators, unions, legislatures, etc., and attempting to "fix" it all with a technology solution, seems like a hard road to success. And, unfortunately, even with the Gates name and with large financial backing, it was not enough to overcome the inertia of the current system.
    
    You stated it well here, that success is all about the message, and getting all of the involved parties on board, early, to where they can see the benefits, and work together on the issues. Hopefully, the next generation can learn from this effort. 
  • Omer Tene Apr 22, 2014

    Thank you Allen. All great points. Re: communication - also see https://www.edsurge.com/n/2014-04-21-what-inbloom-s-shutdown-means-for-the-industry 

Related

Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

Latin America Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from Latin America

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Get more News »

IAPP Communities

Meet locally with other privacy pros, dive deep into a specialized topic or simply share a common interest, IAPP Communities are for you.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

We Need You! Call for Volunteers Opens Soon!

Advisory Board Leaders call opens Oct. 3; KnowledgeNet Chapter Chairs call opens Oct. 6. Don't miss out on your chance to lead!

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

NEW! Raise Staff Awareness

Equip all your data-handling staff to reduce privacy risk, with Privacy Core™ e-learning essentials.

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

The Training Post—Can’t-Miss Training Updates

Subscribe now to get the latest alerts on training opportunities around the world.

Upcoming Web Conferences

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Team

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

NEW! FIP Designation

Recognizing the advanced knowledge and issue-spotting skills a privacy pro must attain in today’s complex world of data privacy.

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

IAPP-OneTrust PIA Platform

Simplify privacy impact assessments with this cloud-based customizable platform - free to IAPP members!

Privacy Vendor List

Find a privacy vendor to meet your needs with our filterable list of global service providers.

NEW! Raise Staff Awareness

Equip all your data-handling staff to reduce privacy risk, with Privacy Core™ e-learning essentials.

IAPP Communities

Meet locally with other privacy pros, dive deep into a specialized topic or simply share a common interest, IAPP Communities are for you.

More Resources »

Time to Get to Work at the Congress

Thought leadership, a thriving community and unrivaled education...the Congress prepares you for the challenges ahead. Register today.

GDPR Comprehensive London

Our third and final GDPR Comprehensive 2016 was a great success. London delegates spent two full days with world-recognized experts taking a guided tour of the GDPR.

Call for Speakers at Summit 2017

Are you an engaging speaker with privacy expertise to share? We want you! Submit a proposal today! The Call for Speakers closes Oct. 2, 2016.

GDPR's Top Impacts - Webcon Delivered in French

Rejoignez des experts pour en savoir plus : Les 10 conséquences pratiques les plus importantes du RGPD. S’inscrire maintenant.

Intensive Education at the Practical Privacy Series

The Series is returning to DC, this year spotlighting Data Breach, FTC and Consumer Privacy, GDPR and Government privacy issues. It’s the education you need now!

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»