Student Data Brokers: What Are They & How to Avoid Them

In today’s digital age, data brokerage is a big business. Companies that devote their energies to amassing, optimizing, and selling people’s personal information worldwide are part of a $200 billion industry – and no one is safe from their invasive interference. As the next generation of consumers, students are a particularly highly sought-after segment of society.

Indeed, a 2018 report from the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham Law School revealed how rampant the practice is today. During their research, they came across 14 different brokers dealing specifically in student data, with one offering information on subjects as young as two. So, what exactly are student data brokers, why should you be concerned about them, and how can students, their guardians, and their teachers evade their reach as much as possible? Read on to find out more.

What are student data brokers?

Data brokers amass a wealth of personal information about anyone and everyone they can, including their name, address, contact information, financial situation, purchase history, and medical status. They then cleanse and optimize this data by collating, analyzing, and fine-tuning it to create a comprehensive profile of their subjects before selling it to the highest bidder.

As the name suggests, student data brokers target those still in education. Although it’s not clear exactly how they obtain this information, it’s known that certain companies can successfully survey school populations in entirely legitimate and legal ways. This data’s subsequent storage and sale fall into a gray area regarding legislation, even if data privacy laws are slowly improving in and out of schools across the US and beyond.

Nonetheless, the 2018 Fordham Law School report revealed that ten students from three different parts of the State received 232 solicitations for information over four-day periods in three consecutive years. Concerningly, almost 10% of these requests had nothing to do with further education or employment and instead targeted individuals to offer medical, fashion, or financial goods and services. That’s a concern for such young populations.

How to avoid student data brokers

Of course, the ideal solution to the student data brokerage conundrum would come through top-down legislation. While progress is in the pipeline, these things often take time, and more immediate action is recommended. Fortunately, several precautions can be taken to limit the scope of brokers and protect student data as much as possible.

Firstly, it’s essential to make a concerted effort to remove the data on the internet related to the person or persons in question. There is a range of different ways this can be achieved. Still, the most effective involves contacting individual data brokerage companies and filing a request to remove the data. This can be quite a time-consuming process, which is why companies like Incogni offer an automatic opt-out service to extract data continually.

Secondly, exposure can be minimized by following best practices concerning data privacy. This means deleting all old, unused, or obsolete accounts of the student online, as well as adjusting their privacy settings on all apps, social media platforms, websites, and other online accounts they hold. Meanwhile, school surveys should be thoroughly vetted to ensure the results will only be used for practical purposes.

The brokerage of student data is a real threat in the digital age. While keeping students’ personal information safe from brokers is challenging, it can be achieved with the right attitude and application.

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