“The harm is that these children are being profiled, stereotyped, and their data profiles are being traded commercially for all sorts of uses — including attempts to manipulate them and their families,” said Joel Reidenberg, a professor at the Fordham University School of Law who was one of the authors of a recent research report on the student data market.
Paul Weeks, ACT’s senior vice president for client relations, said his organization allowed only colleges, universities and scholarship organizations to use its database, which includes details like students’ family income, religious affiliation and test score range. ACT also prohibits clients from sharing students’ data with third parties, he said.
He added that the National Leadership Academies requested and was denied access to student data in January.
Last week, ACT acquired the company that owns MyCollegeOptions, one of the services that shared information with the future science leaders event. Ed Colby, a spokesman for ACT, said his organization would “continue to abide by the highest standards of data privacy.” (Until June, The New York Times had a contract with MyCollegeOptions to distribute codes for free trial subscriptions. The Times did not receive information about students.)
The College Board, which oversees the survey given with the SAT test, describes its services as “the largest, most effective admission search database in the U.S., connecting millions of test takers with colleges, universities and nonprofit educational organizations.” The organization has signed an industry Student Privacy Pledge, which includes a promise not to sell students’ personal information or disclose it for unauthorized purposes or targeted advertising.
But the College Board allows universities to share students’ data with certain educational partners, said Zach Goldberg, a spokesman for the College Board. And one of those universities disclosed students’ survey data to the for-profit National Leadership Academies.
In a follow-up email, Mr. Goldberg said his organization “was troubled” by the inquiry from The New York Times and was suspending the university that shared students’ data while it conducted an investigation. He added that the College Board had previously terminated accounts when users violated its policies.