N.J. Data Broker Tried to Sell Personal Info on a Million Kids but Didn’t Tell State Officials


Joel Reidenberg, founding academic director of the Fordham Center on Law and Information Policy, was quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer about student data privacy.

A New Jersey company that collects and sells personal information about consumers told regulators that it did not knowingly possess data on minors, even as it advertised a mailing list of more than a million high school students for sale on its website.

ALC Inc., a Princeton-based company, failed to acknowledge the possession of data on minors as required to comply with a Vermont law, the first of its kind in the country.

The advertisement, which was taken off ALC’s website after The Inquirer asked about it, said the student list was last updated Dec. 20, 2018 — six weeks before the company told Vermont officials that it did not knowingly possess data on children.

“Ether they’ve filed a false declaration with the state or their advertising to the industry is fraudulent. One or the other is not true,” said Joel Reidenberg, a Fordham University law professor who co-authored a report on the opaque student data broker industry.

Reidenberg, the Fordham law professor, said student data buyers generally include colleges soliciting applications. That makes up a large part of the market that tends to be more transparent than other segments, such as summer camps and scholarship scammers, he said.

“It ranges from those that are looking to reach kids for legitimate educational purposes and those looking to reach kids for more crass commercial interests,” Reidenberg said.

Reidenberg co-authored a report published in June that examined the student data broker industry. Researchers from Fordham’s Center on Law and Information Policy found it was difficult to identify student data brokers, as companies often change names or merge with other firms. The center could identify only 14 data brokers who conclusively sell or advertise the sale of student information or have done so in the past. ALC was not one of them.

The Vermont law requires data brokers that knowingly possess data on minors to detail its data collection practices, databases, sales activities, and opt-out policies.

“If they’re making the declaration in Vermont that is untruthful or that contradicts what they’re publicly stating they’re doing, that can open up the organization to enforcement actions from the Federal Trade Commission and other states,” Reidenberg said of ALC.

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