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CPS parent sues College Board for allegedly selling students’ personal data for profit

The lawsuit alleges the College Board sold the student data collected in its voluntary Student Search Service to boost its already substantial revenues of about $1 billion per year, attorneys said.

File photo
File photo

A lawsuit filed by the parent of a Chicago Public Schools student claims the College Board has illegally collected and sold the private data of more than 5 million students who’ve taken its standardized tests, including the SAT, PSAT and AP exams.

The nonprofit College Board allegedly fooled students and parents into handing over their personal data — including their names, addresses and parental income — to be sold by the College Board for 42-47 cents per name, according to the suit filed Tuesday in federal court.

Those buyers include universities, which could target specific students with promotional letters, and other “third party organizations,” which remain unknown, according to the suit.

“They [the College Board] used deceptive means to get the data,” said Scott Drury, attorney for the parent who filed the suit. Drury’s firm, Loevy & Loevy, is seeking class-action status for the suit.

The suit alleges the College Board sold the student data collected in its voluntary Student Search Service to boost its already substantial revenues, which amount to $1 billion per year, the law firm said in a statement.

The Student Search Service is billed as an online service to help students get accepted to a university. But the lawsuit alleges it was just a ploy to sell student data.

The suit’s plaintiff, identified as “Mark S.,” claims the College Board broke Illinois law when it sold the data of his child, who was under 16 years old and attended CPS when the child took the PSAT, multiple AP Exams and the PSAT 9.

The student consented to the Student Search Service, but the student’s parent never did, the lawsuit states.

The Illinois Children’s Privacy Protection Act requires a school-related service to obtain parental consent to sell or purchase the information of a student under 16 years old, according to the suit.

In a statement, College Board spokeswoman Sara Sympson said it is “committed to protecting student privacy,” but she did not address questions about parental consent.

The College Board said its Student Search Service is a voluntary and has strict privacy rules for the colleges and organizations that participate in the program.

In October, nine democratic lawmakers in Illinois called on state officials to investigate the College Board’s data collection policies.

“The College Board does millions of dollars of business every year in Illinois with state and local governments,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Attorney General Kwame Raoul. “They currently have a $29 million contract with the Illinois State Board of Education for the SAT and PSAT tests. Last year the state paid more than $2 million to cover the fees for the AP tests for low-income students.”

The College Board has said it does not “sell” data, but, rather, shares the information with colleges and organizations under strict licensing agreements.

The College Board boasts that the search service increases the chance of a student enrolling in a college by 12%, according to Sympson.

“We stand ready to work with leaders in Illinois to share how we protect student data and how we use data to connect students to college and scholarship opportunities,” Sympson said.