September 22, 2023



These mother and father designed a college application. Then the city named the cops

Enlarge / Öppna Skolplattformen hoped to realize success exactly where Skolplattform had failed.

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Christian Landgren’s patience was operating out. Every single day the separated father of three was squandering treasured time attempting to get the Town of Stockholm’s formal college technique, Skolplattform, to do the job correctly. Landgren would dig by means of endless convoluted menus to obtain out what his kids ended up undertaking at school. If doing the job out what his kids needed in their fitness center package was a trouble, then doing work out how to report them as unwell was a nightmare. Two decades following its launch in August 2018, the Skolplattform experienced turn out to be a continual thorn in the side of 1000’s of dad and mom throughout Sweden’s funds town. “All the users and the moms and dads ended up indignant,” Landgren claims.

The Skolplattform was not intended to be this way. Commissioned in 2013, the system was meant to make the lives of up to 500,000 young children, lecturers, and parents in Stockholm easier—acting as the complex backbone for all factors instruction, from registering attendance to keeping a file of grades. The platform is a complicated technique that’s created up of a few diverse pieces, containing 18 specific modules that are maintained by 5 external corporations. The sprawling procedure is used by 600 preschools and 177 educational facilities, with independent logins for every teacher, scholar, and mum or dad. The only issue? It doesn’t get the job done.

The Skolplattform, which has price extra than 1 billion Swedish Krona, SEK, ($117 million), has failed to match its first ambition. Mom and dad and instructors have complained about the complexity of the system—its launch was delayed, there have been reports of task mismanagement, and it has been labeled an IT catastrophe. The Android variation of the app has an typical 1.2 star score.

On Oct 23, 2020, Landgren, a developer and the CEO of Swedish innovation consulting firm Iteam, tweeted a hat design and style emblazoned with the text “Skrota Skolplattformen”—loosely translated as “trash the faculty platform.” He joked he should really wear the hat when he picks his young children up from faculty. Weeks later on, putting on that quite hat, he decided to get matters into his very own hands. “From my personal frustration, I just started off to create my own application,” Landgren says.

He wrote to metropolis officials asking to see the Skolplattform’s API paperwork. Though ready for a reaction, he logged into his account and tried using to perform out whether the process could be reverse-engineered. In just a handful of hrs, he experienced created a thing that worked. “I had data on my screen from the school platform,” he states. “And then I started off developing an API on top of their awful API.”

The do the job commenced at the finish of November 2020, just times after Stockholm’s Board of Instruction was hit with a 4 million SEK GDPR fantastic for “serious shortcomings” in the Skolplattform. Integritetsskyddsmyndigheten, Sweden’s info regulator, had located serious flaws in the platform that had uncovered the data of hundreds of hundreds of mother and father, children, and teachers. In some instances, people’s personalized information and facts could be accessed from Google queries. (The flaws have considering that been mounted and the wonderful minimized on charm.)

In the months that followed, Landgren teamed up with fellow developers and parents Johan Öbrink and Erik Hellman, and the trio hatched a plan. They would make an open supply version of the Skolplattform and launch it as an application that could be employed by discouraged parents across Stockholm. Creating on Landgren’s earlier function, the team opened Chrome’s developer instruments, logged into the Skolplattform, and wrote down all the URLs and payloads. They took the code, which referred to as the platform’s non-public API and created packages so it could run on a phone—essentially generating a layer on leading of the current, glitchy Skolplattform.

The end result was the Öppna Skolplattformen, or Open School Platform. The application was launched on February 12, 2021, and all of its code is revealed under an open up source license on GitHub. Any individual can take or use the code, with very several limits on what they can do with it. If the town wanted to use any of the code, it could. But somewhat than welcome it with open arms, metropolis officers reacted with indignation. Even prior to the application was launched, the Metropolis of Stockholm warned Landgren that it may well be unlawful.

In the 8 months that adopted, Stockholms Stad, or the Town of Stockholm, attempted to derail and shut down the open supply application. It warned dad and mom to stop utilizing the app and alleged that it could be illegally accessing people’s personal information. Officers reported the application to information defense authorities and, Landgren promises, tweaked the official system’s underlying code to cease the spin-off from running at all.

Then, in April, the town introduced it was receiving the law enforcement involved. Officials claimed the application and its cofounders may possibly have committed a criminal facts breach and requested cybercrime investigators to glimpse into how the app labored. The go took Landgren, who had been meeting with metropolis officers to address problems about the app, by shock. “It was very terrifying,” he suggests of the police involvement.

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