A new report from Fordham CLIP sheds light on the market for student list data from higher education institutions
From the paper authored by N. CAMERON RUSSELL, JOEL R. REIDENBERG, ELIZABETH MARTIN, and THOMAS NORTON of the FORDHAM CENTER ON LAW AND INFORMATION POLICY:
“Student lists are commercially available for purchase on the basis of ethnicity, affluence, religion, lifestyle, awkwardness, and even a perceived or predicted need for family planning services.
This information is being collected, marketed, and sold about individuals because they are students."
Drawing from publicly-available sources, public records requests from educational institutions, and marketing materials sent to high school students gathered over several years, the study paints an unsettling portrait of the murky market for student list data, and makes recommendations for regulatory response:
- The commercial marketplace for student information should not be a subterranean market. Parents, students, and the general public should be able to reasonably know (i) the identities of student data brokers, (ii) what lists and selects they are selling, and (iii) where the data for student lists and selects derives. A model like the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) should apply to compilation, sale, and use of student data once outside of schools and FERPA protections. If data brokers are selling information on students based on stereotypes, this should be transparent and subject to parental and public scrutiny.
- Brokers of student data should be required to follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of student data. Parents and emancipated students should be able to gain access to their student data and correct inaccuracies. Student data brokers should be obligated to notify purchasers and other downstream users when previously-transferred data is proven inaccurate and these data recipients should be required to correct the inaccuracy.
- Parents and emancipated students should be able to opt out of uses of student data for commercial purposes unrelated to education or military recruitment.
- When surveys are administered to students through schools, data practices should be transparent, students and families should be informed as to any commercial purposes of surveys before they are administered, and there should be compliance with other obligations under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA)."