University of Michigan partner sells student data for AI training

Occurred: February 2024

A partner to the University of Michigan tried to sell student data to organisations training AI models, causing controversy about the possible abuse of student privacy.

Catalyst Research Alliance, which claims to partner the University of Michigan (UM) and North Carolina State University, was found to be hawking licenses for academic data from 65 speech events, 85 hours of audio recordings and 829 student papers for USD 25,000.  

The University later clarified that the papers and recordings referenced in the pitches had been voluntarily supplied by students, with signed consent, from two research studies that spanned from 1997 to 2000 and 2006 to 2007. UM also said it had severed ties with Catalyst Research Alliance.

The data had been freely available to academics to help improve writing and articulation in education. The fracas indicated poor governance and ethics at Catalyst Research Alliance. 

Operator: Catalyst Research Alliance
Developer: University of Michigan
Country: USA
Sector: Education
Purpose: Train AI models
Technology: Database/dataset
Issue: Ethics/values; Privacy
Transparency: Governance