Saturday, December 9, 2023

Go read this: how FAFSA got caught sending personal info to Facebook

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If you applied for financial assistance through a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in the US in early 2022, there is a very good chance that some personal information was provided to a platform that is not at all relevant to the process: Facebook.

This report by The Marking pointed out that, as early as January 2022, the U.S. Department of Education sent data from website visitors to Facebook, possibly including information sent in forms such as name and surname, country, phone number, and email address, by tracking “Meta Pixel.” pixel – even if the person did not have a Facebook account. The Marking also notes that this data collection began “even before the user logged in to”

Asked about this tracking, a spokesman for the Department of Education initially denied that it was happening, despite The Marking finding code that clearly indicates otherwise. Federal Student Aid COO Richard Cordray then confessed, telling the publication that the data collection was “part of a March 22 advertising campaign” that “unintentionally” sent the personal data to Facebook. The data sharing feature was then turned off. Cordray also said the data “was automatically anonymized and neither the FSA nor Facebook used any of it for any purpose,” without explaining how they could verify that.

The Marking notes that it is unknown how much data was pulled by students. However, although these students did not voluntarily agree Facebook’s privacy policy (namely, because FAFSA did not tell them they were being tracked), the publication says this policy allows the company to keep such data for years.

Go read the full report for full details and get a better sense of how widespread Facebook’s tracking capabilities across the web (called the “Meta Pixel”) really are.


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