Home > Uncategorized > Powerschool’s Sale to Vista Equity Leads to HUGE Privacy Breach

Powerschool’s Sale to Vista Equity Leads to HUGE Privacy Breach

September 5, 2015

Nearly a decade ago when I was Superintendent of Schools in NH, our district joined most other NH districts and many districts in the use of Powerschool. A classroom data management system used by over 15,000,000 students and parents, Powerschool was originally affiliated with Apple computers who sold the integrated software package to districts who used Apple products to schedule, grade, and track student progress. Powerschool was appealing to our district because it provided a means for parents to monitor their student’s progress on a daily basis and provided a means for teachers to quickly see if a student encountering difficulty in their class was also experiencing difficulty in other classes. Furthermore, once we standardized across all the districts in our administrative unit, it minimized the paperwork in offices by providing a data set that included all kinds of baseline information on the students that typically had to be gathered annually.

But when Apple decided to get out of the student data collection business, it sold Powerschool to Pearson who recently sold the product to Vista Equity and, in the process, created a HUGE data breach. Why? As Ben Branstetter reports in the Kernel,

While seemingly unconcerning on its own, this means PowerSchool—and all the student data it owns—is now in the hands of a company that has failed to join the 153 education companies that have pledged not to sell student data or use targeted advertising toward students.

Branstetter goes on to report that the sale of student data is a moneymaker for companies that collect this information and— despite the fact that students unwittingly over-share private information that is sold on platforms like Facebook— it should be a concern for parents that companies like Vista Equity are attempting to “…sneak their way into the mines of data currently being hoarded by companies like PowerSchool“.

As Branstetter notes, a recent survey of parents indicted that “…79 percent expressed concerns about their kids’ privacy“. But in the case of Powerschool, I daresay hardly ANY realized this pre-existing product was sold to a company that intends to use the data to make money.

Here’s my take: When profit is involved even more vigilance will be needed.


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