Federal Regulators Seek to Stop Sale of Students’ Data

Coverage Type: reporting
Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20580, United States

ConnectEDU, a popular college and career planning portal in Boston that had collected personal details on millions of high school and college students, filed for bankruptcy. Now federal regulators want to stop the company from selling off students’ names, email addresses, birth dates and other intimate information as assets.

Jessica Rich, the director of the bureau of consumer protection at the Federal Trade Commission, argued that such a sale would violate ConnectEDU’s own privacy policy, a potentially deceptive practice. The company’s privacy policy states that, in the event of a sale of the company, it “will give users reasonable notice and an opportunity to remove personally identifiable data from the service.”

“Information about teens is particularly sensitive and may warrant even greater privacy protections than those accorded to adults,” Rich wrote. “These users, as well as their parents, would likely be concerned if their information transferred without restriction to a purchaser for unknown uses.”

Rich recommended either that ConnectEDU give each student who had registered for its sites the choice to remove his or her personal records from company databases in advance of a sale -- or that the company destroy the entirety of the personal details it had collected.



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