Tutor.com: The Infiltration of Chinese Spyware in Our Classrooms

Tutor.com: The Infiltration of Chinese Spyware in Our Classrooms

BY: SABRINA CASERTA

Freedom in Education (FIE) uncovered Tutor.com, a Chinese-owned financial corporation that provides tutoring services, has infiltrated American classrooms across the country– and right in the Clayton County School District in Georgia. 

In January of 2024, alone, Open Records revealed that Clayton County School District logged 4,366 hours of Tutor.com time alone, ranging from grades 3-12 in a myriad of schools in that district. 

tutor.comDespite Tutor.com self-describing as a personal tutor site “dedicated to promoting equity, opportunity, and achievement for all learners” that partners with “colleges and universities, K–12 schools and districts, public and state libraries, employee benefits programs, and the U.S. military to provide 24/7, on-demand tutoring and homework help in more than 250 subjects,” the fine print reveals that it’s controlled by Primavera Holdings Limited, which is a firm owned by Chinese nationals with a principal place of business in Hong Kong, China. 

Although Primavera insists it’s an American company, they are a Chinese investment firm with offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, Silicon Valley and Singapore. It is considered one of China’s leading investment firms with notable investments in companies such as Alibaba, Ant Group, ByteDance, XPeng, Yum China and The Princeton Review. Primavera is also associated with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance.

In fact, In January 2022, Primavera acquired The Princeton Review and its subsidiary Tutor.com: http://Tutor.com from ST Unitas, gaining attention in May 2023. Primavera Capital Group. That same year Private Equity International, ranked Primavera as the fifth largest private equity firm in Asia based on total fundraising over the most recent five-year period. Tutor denied that Primavera has access to personal data or its IT systems. 

Last month, Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark, urged the Department of Defense (DOD) to share information about the agency’s contract related to tutoring services for U.S. military families. Cotton sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin calling the business relationship with Hong Kong-based Primavera Capital Group “ill-advised, reckless,” and a danger to U.S. national security. 

“While providing educational services, Tutor.com collects personal data on users, such as location, internet protocol addresses, and contents of the tutoring sessions,” Cotton wrote. “As Chinese national security laws require companies to release confidential business and customer data to the Chinese government, we are paying to expose our military and their children’s private information to the Chinese Communist Party.”

It is also of note that in September 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced that voucher programs for four private schools owned by Spring Education Group would be dropped due to alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party via its majority owner, Primavera Capital Group and its CEO Fred Hu. 

FIE has partnered with Parents Defending Education (PDE), as well as other grassroots organizations in signing a petition to get Tutor.com out of our schools.  

The petition states, “We take our freedoms for granted in the United States. Unlike U.S.-based companies, businesses in China are subject to Chinese laws that compel them to assist in the People’s Republic of China’s data collection efforts. Primavera Capital Group also has financial ties to ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. The threat TikTok poses to American national security is clear: The app has already confirmed that sensitive data about some American users is stored in China, and ByteDance employees in China have accessed “nonpublic” user data. For schools with Tutor.com contracts, that means American students’ names and IP addresses could potentially end up in the hands of an adversary of the United States. This can create serious vulnerabilities in our schools. Even more alarming, this includes data and information from children of American service members, as the Department of Defense also has active contracts with Tutor.com.”

FIE believes that parents need to be aware and informed of the tools school districts across the country are using in and outside the classrooms- as their data and private information is at risk. It’s unlikely that most American families would be comfortable with a foreign-owned company mining and maintaining this data. 

According to PDE research, school districts in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia give students access to Tutor.com. 

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