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Facebook-Backed School Software Shows Promise — And Raises Privacy Concerns

Caroline Pollock Bilicki felt uneasy about the new education program introduced this year at her children’s Chicago school.

Summit Basecamp, built with the help of Facebook engineers, was billed as a powerful tool that could reshape how students learn. Dozens of schools nationwide have signed up to use the program, which tailors lessons to individual students using software that tracks their progress.

But it also captures a stream of data, and Bilicki had to sign a consent form for her children to participate, allowing their personal data to be shared with companies such as Facebook and Google. That data, the form said, could include names, email addresses, schoolwork, grades and Internet activity. Summit Basecamp promised to limit its use of the information — barring it from being used, for example, to deliver targeted ads — but Bilicki agonized over whether to sign the form.