Mark Zuckerberg-Backed Byju’s Accused Of Buying Children’s Data and Threatening Parents

Meta Platforms Inc CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative-backed Byju’s —​​India’s largest online education firm — has been accused of bullying parents to buy courses.

What Happened: India’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, or NCPCR, said the edtech company is targeting first-generation learners and forcing parents to buy courses after purchasing their phone numbers, ANI reported.

Priyank Kanoongo, the chairperson of NCPCR, said that the body has initiated action and will send a report to the government.

“We came to know how Byju’s is buying phone numbers of children and their parents, rigorously following them and threatening them that their future will be ruined. They’re targeting first-generation learners. We’ll initiate action and if need be will make a report and write to the government,” Kanoongo said

The child-rights body has also summoned the company’s CEO Byju Raveendran, on Dec. 23 over allegations of hard-selling courses and misleading students.

The report added that NCPCR spoke to 22 customers, many of them from low-income homes, and found that they were “aggressively targeted by salespeople, with some coerced into paying for courses.”

Some customers were also “tricked into taking out loans and ultimately left out of pocket.”

“Byju’s staff took advantage of a desire to provide the best education for their children, and encroached on their privacy by ambushing them in public, pressuring them at home, or secretly collecting their data,” it added.

The Chan Zuckerberg initiative invested $50 Million in Byju’s in September 2016. In 2021, it also raised about $1 billion from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital Group and others. Tiger Global Management and private equity giant Silver Lake Management are among other marquee investors of the platform.