College Board Asked to Explain SAT Data Collection Policies

Kids that wish to attend college have very little choice when it comes to the SAT exam- it’s generally either take the test or learn a trade, given its ubiquity as a college entrance requirement.

Two congressmen are requesting the College Board, owner of the SAT exam, explain how data is collected and shared in an effort to protect the privacy of the teens who don’t really have the option of opting out of the epic test. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton (R-TX) hit up the ACT exam’s owners as well, asking about the sale of the data to entities like colleges. The push is part of a larger bill to expand laws protecting childrens’ privacy online to teens as well. (You can read the letter sent to the College Board here.)

Jeff Chester, executive director at consumer advocacy group the Center for Digital Democracy, said organizations like the SAT and ACT may lack proper oversight because they are non-profits:

“The Markey-Barton bill is focused on commercial businesses, even though many of these same disturbing practices are being conducted in a widespread fashion by nonprofit organizations,” Chester said. “Nonprofit organizations operate under a golden halo effect.”

Fordham Law professor Joel Reidenberg was a bit more critical when it came to the College Board and ACT’s sale of the information gathered from their captive audience:

“The College Board and ACT exploit their role as gatekeepers to college access and use that role to obtain consent from minors to sell their information,” Reidenberg said. “High schoolers are like deer in the headlights against a very sophisticated marketing industry. Parents have no idea and the law does not protect the students’ privacy. It should.”

Should the SAT and ACT quit making money off students’ information? Does disclosure need to be better when participation is essentially compulsory?