Transparency and the Marketplace for Student Data

N. Cameron Russell, Joel R. Reidenberg, Elizabeth Martin, Thomas B. Norton, Fordham Center on Law and Information Policy, Social Science Research Network, Jun 13, 2018
Commentary by Stephen Downes

According to these four authors from various Fordham Centers, "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." According to the report (38 page PDF) some 14 separate data brokers sell access to student data. This results in email marketing to students from hundreds of sources. It's a business that would like to exist in the shadows; as the authors write, "transparency often exists solely because of regulator enforcement." Companies come and go and rise again under different names.

They get their data from surveys administered through schools, through student data brokers, and from self-reported data through honeypots (like scholarship information sites). Schools themselves don't seem to be a data source, but "organizations like the College Board and ACT, Inc. that administer college entrance exams and other standardized tests appear to be important sources of data for educational institutions advertising to students." See also the Hechinger Report.

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