SAT and ACT College Test Companies Sued Over Data Sales

ACT Inc. and the College Board, companies that administer college admissions tests taken by high school students across the U.S., were accused in a lawsuit of selling personal data without permission.

ACT and the College Board, whose exams include the SAT and those for advanced placement, ask for permission to share data including names, birth dates and social security numbers without disclosing that information is being sold to scores of buyers for about 33 cents a student, according to the complaint in federal court in Chicago. The plaintiff, Illinois resident Rachel Specter, accuses the companies of breach of contract for selling the personal identifying information, or PII.

“The fact that any third party who was willing to pay substantial sums of money to the defendants would be given access to the plaintiff’s and class’ PII was not part of the parties’ contract,” according to the Oct. 28 complaint.

Specter, who took the exams three to four years ago, alleges the companies invaded her privacy and have been unjustly enriched by data sales. Along with unspecified money damages, she seeks to represent other test-takers since 2003 in a class-action lawsuit.

“We do not comment on ongoing litigation,” Carly Lindauer, a College Board spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “As a guiding principle in all we do, the College Board takes very seriously the privacy, security and confidentiality of information entrusted to us by the students in our care.”

1.6 Million Students

More than 1.6 million members of the high school class of 2013 took the SAT exam at least once, according to the company. The New York-based organization’s website describes it as a nonprofit association representing more than 6,000 schools, colleges and universities.

Ed Colby, a spokesman for Iowa City, Iowa-based ACT, said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

More than 1.8 million members of the U.S. high school graduating class of 2013 took the ACT exam, Colby said.

ACT also offers its namesake test and others for students in kindergarten through the senior year of high school, according to its website.

Two members of Congress called for an inquiry in 2011 about how the testing companies collect and store data from student test takers.

The case is Specter v. ACT Inc., 13-cv-07701, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in federal court in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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