Many people have become wary of online forms asking for personal information since many of them prove to be opportunities for dishonest people and institutions to use and share that information for their own purposes. But there are institutions most of us assume to be trustworthy, and for most people, that would include the College Board, the same institution that develops and administers the SAT and ACT exams. According to a new lawsuit, the College Board allegedly collected and sold students’ personal information, including their names, addresses, gender, ethnicity, grades, and citizenship status.
According to a new lawsuit, which has been filed on behalf of the parent of a student of Chicago Public Schools, the College Board allegedly collected this information using a Student Search Survey. The College Board denies having done anything wrong, saying that the survey was optional and free for students to fill out. Legislators say the College Board did ask for students’ consent to distribute their information to colleges, universities, and scholarship providers, but did not mention that the information would be sold to those third parties – that the College Board was profiting off students’ personal information.
The lawsuit alleges that the College Board collected between 42¢ and 47¢ for each student name they sold to other organizations.
The lawsuit further alleges that, after obtaining students’ personal information, the College Board offered the students’ identifying information (including their names and addresses) for sale to third parties in order to promote Student Search Service, the survey they used to collect students’ information.
This is not the first time such alleged wrongdoing on the part of the College Board has garnered public attention. Earlier in 2019, a group of lawmakers asked the office of the Illinois State Attorney General to investigate similar claims surrounding the College Board. According to the lawmakers, the College Board (which earns approximately $8.35 million per year as part of its contract with Chicago Public Schools, in addition to earning almost $10 million per year from its contract with the Illinois State Board of Education) violated at least two state laws.
When asked about the scandal, the College Board denied having sold student names to third parties, but it did admit to licensing them with colleges, scholarship distributors, and non-profit organizations as part of certain agreements the College Board maintained with those organizations.
The lawsuit against the College Board was filed by Loevy & Loevy, a Chicago law firm seeking to represent a class action of students and their parents in the lawsuit against the College Board. In the complaint they filed, they allege more than 5 million U.S. students have suffered damages as a result of the College Board selling their personal information. Among other things, the lawsuit alleges the students have suffered an invasion of privacy, reduced the value of their personal information, and they have been deprived of their right to control whether their information is used for commercial purposes.
The lawsuit alleges 11 different counts of misconduct, including violations of the Illinois School Student Records Act, the Right of Publicity Act, as well as the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.
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