Ian Linkletter

Concerns regarding the sale of Instructure for $2 billion to Thoma Bravo

Discussion created by Ian Linkletter on Dec 19, 2019
Latest reply on Feb 18, 2020 by scottd@instructure.com

On December 4th, it was announced that Instructure (the company that makes Canvas) would be sold to private equity firm Thoma Bravo. The price: $2 billion, making it one of the biggest ed tech valuations in history. Blackboard and Turnitin both sold for under $2 billion.

 

Christopher Phillips blogged about the announcement with a very informative post summarizing lots of information.

 

I read the news and was immediately concerned. Any time a company is acquired, there is risk. It's my job as an educational technologist to understand risks and protect our students. We do not know what Thoma Bravo (the PE firm that bought Instructure for $2 billion) will change about the company. We do not know which company values will be forgotten when Instructure is no longer an independent company.

 

This is uncharted territory. Previous Instructure blog posts and statements cannot possibly be construed to represent the Thoma Bravo of 2020 and beyond.

 

Openness is a core value listed on the Instructure About page (emphasis mine):

"We’re open to new people, new ideas, and new opportunities. We aspire to create an inclusive and welcoming culture. We strive to be collaborative in our projects, transparent about our intentions, and curious about how things work and how we can make them better."

 

I share this personal value, and I have been disappointed all month at the lack of open communication about the sale. There is fear, uncertainty, and doubt about what will happen to the over one trillion records of personal information Instructure has collected, and may soon be owned by Thoma Bravo. This is too important of a moment to make assumptions of good faith. We need to be legally protected.

 

From the Instructure Product Privacy Policy:

AFFILIATES. Although we currently do not have a parent company, any subsidiaries, joint ventures, or other companies under a common control (collectively, “AFFILIATES”), we may in the future. We may share some or all of your information with these Affiliates, in which case we will require our Affiliates to honor this Privacy Policy.

and

We may also share information about you in connection with or during negotiation of any merger, financing, acquisition, bankruptcy, dissolution, transaction or proceeding involving sale, transfer, divestiture or disclosure of all or a portion of our business or assets to another company. In the event that information is shared in this manner, notice will be posted on our Site.

 

We need legally binding protection from the sale and monetization of the data we promise to protect: personal data of students, faculty, staff, and alumni at our institutions.

 

Cristina Colquhoun and other members of the Canvas community (including me) have worked collaboratively on this letter summarizing the privacy concerns surrounding the sale to Thoma Bravo.

 

This 922 word letter and its 22 citations call for Instructure to be open about the following:

 

  • What will be done with the student data you possess?
  • How will the data be legally protected from unethical use by future owners?
  • Will students be able to opt out from having their data collected indefinitely and monetized?

 

I encourage everyone to review the letter and add your own concerns, thoughts, and feedback. Share it within your own organizations (or this post) and raise awareness.

 

Employees of Instructure, I know it can be difficult to watch a conversation and not know where it is going to go. Please be open with us.

 

Let's talk freely and respectfully, Canvas Community.

 

Are you concerned about the sale?

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