Law & Courts

FTC to Companies: Follow Rules On Sharing Student Data

By Sean Cavanagh — October 16, 2002 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Two companies have settled a complaint brought against them by the Federal Trade Commission that they sold personal information about high school students to commercial marketers, without first warning pupils that private businesses would get that data.

The companies, American Student List and the National Research Center for College and University Admissions, were charged with having collected information from “millions” of students, who were misled in believing only colleges and universities would get the information, federal officials said.

By not making it clear to students that noneducational entities had access to the information, the companies violated federal privacy policies, the FTC alleged.

The agreement with the two companies does not include any admission that they broke the law.

Under the settlement, announced Oct. 2, American Student List, in Mineola, N.Y., and the National Research Center for College and University Admissions, in Lees Summit, Mo., are barred from using data they have already taken from high school students for marketing not related to education. It also prohibits them from turning over similar data to marketers in the future, unless they specify to students where that information is going.

Jessica L. Rich, an assistant director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection, said she believes this is the first case the agency has pursued against companies that provide college-admissions information to teenagers.

Ms. Rich declined comment on whether other companies seeking information from students could be accused of violating the same federal privacy laws, but she said she hoped the FTC’s case would protect students.

“We hope to get a broader message across to people who might engage in similar or the same practices,” Ms. Rich said last week.

Changing Procedures

According to FTC officials, the businesses gave out surveys to high school teachers and guidance counselors, asking the school staff members to have students complete the information. The surveys asked for basic biographical information, along with more detailed data, such as academic and work interests and extracurricular activities, the FTC alleged.

In a statement, Don Munce, the president of the National Research Center for College and University Admissions, said he was satisfied with the agreement. The company conducts annual surveys in more than 24,000 public and private schools, and then makes that information available to colleges and universities trying to find qualified students, according to the company’s Web site.

“Our survey had included a privacy statement telling students how the information we collect would be used, including that it would be shared with organizations other than educational institutions,” Mr. Munce said. “Because the FTC believes this statement was not sufficiently detailed, we agreed to modify our statements in communication with students, teachers, and parents.”

American Student List spokesman Greg Kalish said his company helps underwrite a portion of the cost of the surveys administered by Mr. Munce’s company. The survey results are then shared with ASL, which aggregates it and sells it to education customers, he said.

In a statement, American Student List’s chief executive officer, Don Damore, said his business was vigilant in making sure that student information was distributed in accordance with the law.

“We have long had policies and procedures in place to ensure the integrity of the use of the information contained in our lists,” Mr. Danmore.

In explaining their survey to school officials, the companies’ written language did not make it clear information would be sold to private marketers, in what amounted to a deceptive practice, the FTC complaint charged.

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Creating Confident Readers: Why Differentiated Instruction is Equitable Instruction
Join us as we break down how differentiated instruction can advance your school’s literacy and equity goals.
Content provided by Lexia Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts Brown v. Board of Education: 70 Years of Progress and Challenges
The milestone for the historic 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down racial segregation in schools is marked by a range of tributes
12 min read
People mill around the third floor of the Kansas Statehouse in front of a Brown v. Board of Education mural before hearing from speakers recognizing the 70th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case on April 29, 2024 in Topeka, Kan.
People mill around the third floor of the Kansas Statehouse in front of a Brown v. Board of Education mural before hearing from speakers recognizing the 70th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case on April 29, 2024 in Topeka, Kan.
Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP
Law & Courts Republican-Led States Sue to Block New Title IX Rule
A pair of lawsuits focus on the rule's protections for students' gender identity.
5 min read
Demonstrators advocating for transgender rights and healthcare stand outside of the Ohio Statehouse on Jan. 24, 2024, in Columbus. Four Republican-led states filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the Biden administration's new Title IX regulation, which among other things would codify protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Demonstrators advocating for transgender rights and healthcare stand outside of the Ohio Statehouse on Jan. 24, 2024, in Columbus. Four Republican-led states filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the Biden administration's new Title IX regulation, which among other things would codify protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Patrick Orsagos/AP
Law & Courts Why It Will Now Be Easier for Educators to Sue Over Job Transfers
The case asked whether transferred employees had to show a 'significant' change in job conditions to sue under Title VII. The court said no.
8 min read
Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building at dusk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022.
Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building at dusk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022. The high court on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, made it easier for workers, including educators, to sue over job transfers.
Patrick Semansky/AP
Law & Courts Oxford School Shooter's Parents Were Convicted. Holding District Liable Could Be Tougher
The conviction of parents in the Oxford, Mich., case expanded the scope of responsibility, but it remains difficult to hold schools liable.
12 min read
Four roses are placed on a fence to honor Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Tate Myre, 16, and Justin Shilling, 17, the four teens killed in last week's shooting, outside Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.
Four roses are placed on a fence outside Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., honor Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Tate Myre, 16, and Justin Shilling, 17, the four teens killed in the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting at the school.
Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP