An Illinois father has filed a proposed class action lawsuit this week in which he claims College Board unlawfully sold his daughter’s personal information after she took several of its standardized tests.
The case claims that students who took College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) exams or “SAT Suite” assessments were pressured into surrendering their personal information as part of a purportedly optional survey known as Student Search Service. Despite representing that students’ information would never be sold to third parties, College Board did just that, the case says, and disclosed students’ data to colleges, scholarship programs, and other third-party organizations for advertising purposes—all without parental consent.
College Board’s Tests
College Board, the case explains, offers and administers to students standardized tests that aim to assess what they’re learning and to prepare them for college. Included in what the defendant calls its “SAT Suite of Assessments” are the PSAT 8/9, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, and SAT, the suit says. The defendant also offers Advanced Placement (AP) exams designed to assess high school students’ learning in college-level courses.
According to the complaint, students were led to believe that their performance on the defendant’s standardized tests would “significantly impact their futures” in that the scores would be used to determine their eligibility for financial aid and acceptance into colleges and universities.
With their futures purportedly on the line, students were asked during the “preadministration” process for each exam to provide their personal information as part of College Board’s Student Search Service, the suit alleges. Although presented at the same time as the exams, Student Search Service was a separate product that asked students to volunteer their personal information under the “false pretense” that it would help “[g]uide your counselors in helping you plan your future,” the lawsuit claims.
As part of the survey, College Board allegedly asked students to provide their:
Expected high school graduation date;
Grade point average;
Parents’ educational backgrounds.
In addition to the above information, students who took the PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 were also asked to provide their intended college major and parents’ military backgrounds, the case says, while SAT takers were asked even more questions about their citizenship status, religious preference, parental income, high school courses and activities, and interest in ROTC.
The case claims College Board instructed test administrators and proctors to encourage students, who were already under “intense pressure and stress,” to answer the purportedly optional questions. The suit argues that as a result of these “unfair and deceptive practices,” students were under the false impression that their participation in the questionnaire could help with their acceptance to college while their refusal to do so would have “dire consequences.” From the suit:
While students were made to believe the results of these tests would significantly impact their futures, to Defendant College Board the tests served a wholly different purpose – i.e., to obtain highly valuable personal student information.”
The “True Purpose” of the Student Search Service
According to the lawsuit, the real reason behind College Board’s Student Search Service was so that the not-for-profit association could make a profit. The case claims the defendant sold students’ personal information to third parties for advertising purposes “in order to increase its already substantial revenues.”
During a May 2019 Illinois Senate legislative hearing, a representative of College Board reportedly confirmed that the organization sold access to student data for $0.45 per student. Based on this testimony, a group of Illinois lawmakers urged the state’s attorney general to investigate College Board’s alleged data selling practices.
Perhaps worse, the suit argues, is that College Board allegedly sold students’ information while representing in at least one of its own publications that “College Board does not sell student data.”
The plaintiff, who filed the suit on behalf of his minor child, claims his daughter has received solicitations from third-party organizations based on the information she submitted as part of College Board’s Student Search Service.
Information Sold Without Consent, Case Says
College Board, the lawsuit claims, violated three Illinois state laws by not only disclosing the personal information of minors but doing so without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
The suit argues that College Board has invaded students’ privacy and caused them to suffer damages in the form of costs associated with trying to avoid unwanted solicitations.
Who Is the Class Action Looking to Cover?
The lawsuit seeks to cover all U.S. residents who took the SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, PSAT 8/9, or an AP exam and participated in College Board’s Student Search Service.
How Do I Join the Lawsuit?
At this point, there’s nothing you need to do to join the lawsuit. If the case settles, anyone affected should receive a class action notice that contains more information about the case and any instructions for how to file a claim.